Stena Line docker wins homophobia unfair dismissal case
- 13 May 2014
- From the section Northern Ireland
A Belfast dock worker sacked after reacting to homophobic abuse at work has been awarded £45,000 compensation.
An industrial tribunal found Martin Sheil, 51, had been unfairly dismissed by Stena Line Irish Sea Ferries.
It also ruled he had been the victim of discrimination and harassment at work on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The company had "adopted a far too passive approach to unpleasant banter", the tribunal held. Stena Line is appealing against the ruling.
The tribunal panel found Mr Sheil had been subjected to homophobic comments over a period of weeks or months.
Mr Sheil brought the case arguing he had been unfairly dismissed following an incident involving himself and a colleague who had been taking part in homophobic abuse.
The tribunal found the company had failed to investigate Mr Sheil's allegations, and had not considered whether these were mitigating circumstances.
Awarding £37,500 of the total amount for unfair dismissal, the tribunal said "the flaws in the investigatory and disciplinary procedure render the dismissal substantively unfair".
Mr Sheil was supported by the Equality Commission in bringing his case.
'Warning to employers'
Chief Commissioner Michael Wardlow said the case shows the "terrible impact on an individual who faced daily abuse at work because of his sexual orientation".
"The tribunal said that, although the company had policies in place that were designed and intended to discourage such behaviour, they received no evidence that they took active steps to prevent it," he said.
"That posts a warning to all employers that they must take active steps to ensure that their policies against harassment and discrimination are known, understood and practiced by their entire workforce."
Mr Sheil said his job had been important to him, and he had worked to keep his private life and work life separate.
"I endured months of abuse in silence," he said.
"The reason I took this case was to try and make sure that others don't have to go through this."
The panel found that because Mr Sheil had taken action on the abuse himself rather than reporting it to management, he had contributed partly to his own dismissal so his compensation was reduced by 10%.
There was also a 20% reduction to reflect the panel's estimate of the chance that his dismissal was fair.
A Stena Line spokesman said the company was disappointed by the tribunal's decision.
"Stena Line has lodged an appeal which is scheduled to take place in the Court of Appeal in September 2014," he said.