A former customer, who was gay, succeeded in a claim against a local shop where a shop assistant made ‘gay’ gestures when he walked past.
An openly gay customer sought to return some goods to a local shop, as being damaged. The shop refused to refund him (the court held it was entitled to refuse), and the shop assistant blew a sarcastic kiss at him as he left the shop.
The shop assistant continued to make mocking gestures on many occasions afterwards, if the customer was passing the shop and the assistant was standing outside it on a cigarette break.
The Count Court held this was a breach of s.13 Equality Act, as direct discrimination because of sexual orientation. It awarded £7,500 in compensation for injury to feelings.
It was not technically harassment under s.26 EqA, as s.29(8) creates an exception for harassment by service providers in relation to sexual orientation and religion or belief. But it was direct discrimination anyway.
The claimant successfully relied on s.108 EqA (relationships that have ended), so that he could claim even though he was no longer a customer.
The shop assistant was deemed to be acting in the course of his employment even though he was on a work break outside the shop at the time of the gesturing.
This summary is taken from:
- “As soon as he sent court papers, shop staff stopped mocking him on the street. Legal action works!” (archive of lag.org.uk), Nov 2015
- Why ‘gay’ gestures are discrimination (bbc.co.uk), Oct 2015.
It is not unusual for people who stammer to experience harassment in shops: Examples on stammering: services and public functions. This case reinforces the point that there can be legal remedies if the person wants to pursue them.
The case also illustrates that harassment and direct discrimination can be by gestures rather than speech. In the case of stammering, it could include facial expressions for example.