Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

In the latest of our series of posts examining cases from the Employment Tribunal archive, we take a look at the case of Callahan v Benchmark Cleaning Services Ltd ET/3200640/2013. In this case the Employment Tribunal found that a manager’s comments about an employee’s sexuality (including greeting the employee “hello darling” with a limp wrist gesture) constituted direct sexual orientation discrimination but did not constitute sexual orientation-related harassment.

The facts in Callahan v Benchmark Cleaning Services Ltd

Mr Callahan, who is homosexual, commenced employment with Benchmark Cleaning Services Limited (“Benchmark”) on 14 September 2011 at its open-plan London office. The company was owned by Mr Raji, who was also a director of Benchmark. Ms Smith was Mr Callahan’s line manager; Ms Smith’s manager was, in turn, Mr Raji.

Mr Callahan was open about his sexual orientation in the office and was viewed by colleagues as “domineering” and “highly confident”. Mr Callahan had a number of arguments with Mr Raji but Mr Raji viewed him as extremely competent at his job and as valuable to the team.

On one occasion Mr Raji gave staff gifts following a holiday in Dubai. Mr Raji gave Mr Callahan a pink key ring and a pen.

On several occasions Mr Raji made a “limp wrist hand gesture” and said “hello darling” to Mr Callahan. Mr Callahan’s position was that he originally viewed this as a joke but stopped seeing it as such as time passed.

On two occasions, in February and April 2012, Mr Raji made comments to the effect that he did not understand “why God had made homosexual men”, and that this was not “right or fair”. The context for one of these occasions was that there was a discussion between Mr Raji and Mr Callahan about religion, and that Mr Raji said that his church (the Pentecostal Church) did not accept homosexuality.

On 29 November 2013 Mr Callahan and Mr Raji had an argument about whether Mr Raji had put a comma or a full stop in a handwritten letter. As a result of this argument Mr Callahan resigned that day; Mr Raji gave him leaving present and Mr Callahan told Mr Raji that he had “no hard feelings”.

Mr Callahan subsequently made claims for direct sexual orientation discrimination and sexual orientation-related harassment.

The Employment Tribunal’s decision in Callahan v Benchmark Cleaning Services Ltd

The Employment Tribunal held that Mr Callahan had not been subjected to harassment on the grounds of his sexual orientation. The Tribunal found that the “hello darling” comment and limp wrist gesture were “humiliating” and Mr Raji’s comments about about God and homosexuals were “insulting”, and that both incidents constituted detrimental treatment towards Mr Callahan. However, the Tribunal found that Mr Raji’s conduct in both respects were not related to Mr Callahan’s homosexuality, finding that the “hello darling” comment was Mr Raji trying to be funny and, further, that the comments relating to God and homosexuality were made in the context of a discussion about religion. As such, Mr Raji’s conduct did not have the purpose of creating a prohibited environment for Mr Callahan and, further, the Tribunal found that the relevant conduct did not have the effect of creating a prohibited environment for Mr Callahan: the incidents were relatively isolated over a period of time and Mr Callahan otherwise appeared to be “happy and content in the workplace”.

The Tribunal did, however, conclude that Mr Raji’s conduct constituted direct discrimination: his conduct towards Mr Callahan constituted a detriment (as detailed above) and there was no evidence that Mr Raji ever made hand gestures to other staff, made fun of anyone else’s sexuality, or questioned why God had made heterosexual people.

The Employment Tribunal found in Mr Callahan’s favour in his claim for direct sexual orientation discrimination and awarded him £2,000 for injury to feelings.

Our solicitors’ comments

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case shows that it can often be difficult for employees to succeed with harassment claims if they have not submitted formal written complaints about conduct in the workplace that they subsequently rely on in Employment Tribunal proceedings as constituting incidents of harassment.”

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Our awards

Request a callback

Your name

Your email

Your telephone number

Contact us

Please feel free to discuss your own position and concerns. Contact your nearest office on:

T: 020 3397 3603
E: enquiries@redmans.co.uk
W: www.redmans.co.uk

Testimonials

4.73 Average

92 Reviews

Anonymous

Redmans Solicitors provided a professional and prompt service in dealing with my settlement agreement. They used their experience to negotiate a better deal for which I am grateful for. I highly recommend their services.

Posted 2 days ago

Cheryl R

Very efficient and friendly lawyers. I have used Redmans twice now and Chris Hadrill has been amazing to work with. Would highly recommend Redmans.

Posted 2 days ago

Anonymous

I found Redmans Solicitors to be extremely professional, dealing with my questions and concerns quickly and in detail. I would have no hesitation in recommending Redmans Solicitors to anyone.

Posted 2 days ago

Anonymous

I requested Redmans services on a redundancy case. Both Chris and Rana were great, thoughtful, very professional and responded quickly. They were very clear throughout the entire process, regarding the process and my options and I couldn't feel I had better legal advice for my case. Overall excellent service and I would certainly recommend and use their services again.

Posted 6 days ago

Anonymous

Responsive, patient, thorough and personable - an excellent service.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

The team at Redmans, Chris Hadrill and Sacha Barrett were always very helpful and had expert knowledge to assist me during my employment law matter, I would not hesitate to recommend them to all!

Posted 1 week ago

Arun T

Chris was punctual, attentive and accurate. He answered my questions with clarity and avoided dubiosity. I would recommend him to anyone seeking legal advice within his remit.

Posted 1 week ago

Yulian Z

Great service

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Excellent, professional service and a speedy resolution. Many thanks

Posted 1 week ago

Taral P

Sacha and Chris were both very helpful in closing out my matter. Sacha was very clear in helping me understanding the documents I needed reviewing, providing a professional service throughout.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Really pleased with the swift and professional service from Redmans. They provided very clear advice and helped conclude my matter with the minimum of stress or delay.

Posted 1 week ago

Matthew L

Redmans were very quick to respond to my initial enquiry, and provided me with a very effective and efficient service, generating a most satisfactory outcome. I would definitely use them again if the need arose.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

First rate service. Warm and friendly whilst exceptionally efficient at the same time. I would highly recommend them.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Professional and helpful. Thorough and supportive.

Posted 1 week ago

Richard A

Excellent service, prompt replies, great advice

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Very professional services

Posted 1 week ago

Margaret

Redmans Solicitors took a lot of the worry away and were very thoughtful and meticulous in their dealings with my case , thank you very mush , great service and a great job

Posted 1 month ago

Mark B

Prompt efficient service. Hourly, and part thereof, billing got a bit stressful at times - as opposed to flat fee - made me think twice about sending an email or making a quick call when I had a query because it would have eaten up minutes from my budget. But happy with the legal service I received overall and would recommend.

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Chris Hadrill has provided a truly wonderful service and was willing to lend his support and expertise at a time when other solicitors, only wanted to discuss their fees! A clear thinking and down to earth professional, Chris can be trusted to listen carefully to your matter, cut through the fog, and advise you on the best (and most realistic) way forward, saving you time, money and heartache. It will be helpful if you first get your ducks in a row in terms of documents / evidence etc. and then contact Chris, (that’s what we did) as this will help your matter to be dealt with faster. The more organised and together you are the more successful you will be. You'll be fine with Chris, I highly recommend him. Good luck!

Posted 1 month ago

Richard v

Excellent Service

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

Very happy from service received. Highly recommend

Posted 2 months ago