Sexual orientation discrimination

It is against the law to discriminate against you because of your sexual orientation – whether you are heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual. In the Equality Act, sexual orientation includes how you choose to express your orientation, such as through your appearance or the places you visit.

You are also protected if someone discriminates against you because of what they think your sexual orientation is or because you are connected to someone who has a particular sexual orientation. – this is known as discrimination by association.

Sexual orientation discrimination is unlawful and you can take action to stop it and bring a claim in a Tribunal. This is where we come in. We are employment law specialists – it’s all we do.


What is sexual orientation discrimination?

This is when you are treated differently because of your sexual orientation. The treatment could be a one-off incident, a series of incidents or as a result of a rule or policy which is unfair when applied to you. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful.

There are very few circumstances when being treated differently because of your sexual orientation is lawful.

There are four main types of sexual orientation discrimination:

1. Direct discrimination

This happens when you are treated worse than someone else in a similar situation because of your sexual orientation.

  • For example, at a job interview, you mention your same sex partner. The employer decides not to offer you the job, even though you are the best candidate they have interviewed.

2. Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination happens when an organisation has a particular policy or way of working that applies to everyone, but which puts people of your sexual orientation at a disadvantage.

Indirect discrimination can be permitted in some circumstances – if the organisation or employer is able to show that there is a good reason for the policy. This is known as objective justification.

3. Harassment

Harassment in the workplace occurs when someone makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded.

  • For example, colleagues keep greeting a male worker by the feminine version of his name although he has asked them to use his proper name. The colleagues say this is just banter but the worker is upset and offended by it.

Harassment can never be justified. However, if an organisation or employer can show they did everything reasonable to prevent people who work there from behaving like that, it may be hard to succeed in a claim against your employer – although you could make a claim against the person doing the harassing.

4. Victimisation

This is when you are treated badly because you have made a complaint related to your sexual orientation. You are also protected if you are supporting someone who has made a complaint of sexual orientation related discrimination.

  • For example a gay worker complains that he has been ‘outed’ by his manager against his wishes and his employer sacks him because he complained.


I have been discriminated against, what can I do?

You will want to know all your options before deciding what to do. This is what we are best at.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to raise a grievance with your employer – but it depends on your circumstances. You shouldn’t have to put up with being discriminated against and many people just want to leave work and never return.  We are experienced negotiators and will try to secure you the best exit terms if this is what you want to do.

If, after going through the grievance procedure, you are not satisfied with the outcome, you could bring a claim against your employer (and possibly the person doing the discrimination too) in an Employment Tribunal. Any claim in the Employment Tribunal will need to be submitted promptly. It is now mandatory to go through Acas’s Early Conciliation scheme before you can submit a claim to the Tribunal. This must be started within three months (less one day) of the discriminatory act. We can handle this for you too.

In more extreme cases of sexual orientation discrimination, you may also be entitled to resign and claim constructive dismissal without having to raise a grievance first.

We will always give you clear, honest advice in terms that are easy to understand. Once you have decided what outcome you want, we will go all out to get it for you.


What compensation am I entitled to?

Unlike normal unfair dismissal claims, there is no maximum amount of compensation a Tribunal can award you.

In addition to  damages for any losses you have suffered – such as wages or pension, compensation normally includes an award for injury to feelings. Tribunals are guided in what to award:

  • Lower band (less serious cases): £900 to £9,000
  • Middle band: £9,000 to £27,000
  • Upper band (the most serious cases): £27,000 to £45,000

In exceptional cases, the award will be over £45,000

You only have a limited amount of time to take action to preserve your employment rights – usually just three months (less one day) from the date you were last discriminated against.

What do I do now?

This is where we come in. Employment law is all we do.

Talk to us and we will explain your options. You might want to stay in work, have a phased reduction to your hours or duties until you are ready to go, or if you have been dismissed – we can help you to enforce your employment rights.

It can often feel like your employer holds all the power.  They will likely have experienced HR professionals or a solicitor working in the background.  That’s why you need the best support and advice available.  You need a specialist employment lawyer – one who will push for the best outcome for you.

We understand how it feels. We have helped hundreds of employees and because we act for businesses too, we know the tactics you’re likely to face from your employer.  We know every trick in the book.

FREE first advice

Have you ever wanted to just ask an expert employment law solicitor if they can help you, without worrying about what it may cost to contact them?

Get in touch

We’d like to talk to you to see what we can do to help, so please either call us anytime for free on 08000 614 631, email us or use the form below

Together we can work out what your next steps might confidence, at no cost and with no obligation.


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