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 first name (required)

    Your last name (required)

    Your email (required)

    Your telephone number (required)

    Brief details of your enquiry

    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

    4.78 Average

    269 Reviews

    Sue W

    The people at Redmans talk to you with respect and make you feel like they take your situation personal. They clearly care and are extremely professional. I have recommended Redmans to many people.

    Posted 5 days ago

    Anonymous

    Redmans Solicitors were consistently prompt, efficient and professional from the start of my reaching out to them for support in relation to contentious negotiations of an employment matter that continued for almost two months resulting in a positive settlement agreement. Chris Hadrill was diligent, thorough, empathetic and objective in his advice and guidance, showing deep and broad knowledge of the law and legal processes plus extensive practical experience in handling complex matters, resulting in clear and pragmatic advice in ambiguous circumstances that resulted in a very good outcome. I fully recommend Chris Hadrill and Redmans Solicitors! I have made this review anonymous purely because of the confidentiality obligations in the settlement agreement concluded.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Michelle W

    Redmans solicitors provided legal support and advice for a settlement agreement. Excellent customer service, very professional. The senior associate solicitor kept me updated throughout the process, showed empathy and the agreement was signed-off / completed within the agreed timeline.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Mark W

    Redmans Solicitors were extremely professional and helpful! Chris Hadrill handled my case and was an amazing help! His guidance, advice and understanding to my redundancy settlement were always clear, concise and very helpful and I am very grateful to him, and glad I found Redmans to help with my settlement. I highly recommend them!

    Posted 1 month ago

    Alison M

    Very happy with the advice I received

    Posted 1 month ago

    Margaret A

    I found everything about the company to be extremely professional and efficient. During my initial contact with Chris, he listened well and was reassuring, so I felt confident that my case would be well handled. Caroline was excellent at explaining all the legal points and answering my questions, as well as being very supportive and understanding throughout the process. I would definitely recommend this company.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Sanja K

    Very efficient and professional service.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    I found the advice I was given by Redmans Solicitors to be clear and useful and found the solicitor on my case to be both knowledgeable and approachable.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Karen T

    Great service. Thank you.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    Excellent service from Chris & Mel Chin. The best outcome was achieved from the redundancy process. They were extremely thorough, listened carefully and acted swiftly on my behalf. I highly recommend Redmans Solicitors

    Posted 1 month ago

    Shanine M

    Excellent service, thank you so much!

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    I found Caroline and Chris very Helpful and provided excellent service. Caroline especially provided great legal advice and made me feel at ease with the whole process. I would highly recommend them. Thank you!

    Posted 1 month ago

    Gayle B

    Excellent company very professional would definitely recommend

    Posted 1 month ago

    Alex K

    Redmans provided an excellent service, timely and effective. Will definitely recommend.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    Great job done on my employment law

    Posted 1 month ago

    Dominica S

    Caroline & Chris were very prompt and efficient.Very happy with the service and will definitely recommend Redmans Solicitor to everyone !

    Posted 2 months ago

    Sandra K

    If you are looking for a group of solicitors who are Professional, Caring and on point, then look no futher than Redmans. I was literally hand held through out my case. Can not find fault with this company, very happy with the result and the service i received. Would highly recommend Redmans.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Anonymous

    I found dealing with Redmans a pleasure. I got to speak to someone quickly, the advice was profferred promplty and the service was not 'pushy'. In addition, the administration was excellent. What more could you ask for?

    Posted 2 months ago

    ALISDAIR L

    Redmans did a brilliant job regarding my redundancy agreement. I miss read an extra charge which wasnt the case so doing a new review to clarify. I would recommend Redmans for any employment law issues you may have.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Christos G

    Great legal advice and quick correspondence. Very supportive and helpful through the entire process. Thank you Redmans!

    Posted 2 months ago

    Anonymous

    Chris Hadrill advised me on a redundancy settlement agreement. He was very responsive, easy to deal with and gave me good advice at a stressful time.

    Posted 2 months ago