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Gay man wins £16k damages after enduring years of slurs from colleague

Businessman subjected to "relentless" campaign of bullying over his sexuality.

By Christopher Woodhouse

Published 02/11/2016

Victim: The tribunal said that John Ferguson had been subjected to bullying simply because he was gay.
Victim: The tribunal said that John Ferguson had been subjected to bullying simply because he was gay.
Harassment: Lars Stuewe denies the tribunal's finding that he bullied Mr Ferguson.

A gay man has been awarded more than £16,000 by a tribunal after his fellow director at a private ambulance firm repeatedly called him “gay boy” and made grossly offensive jokes about his sexuality.

John Ferguson claimed that Lars Stuewe made offensive comments about him daily for three years in what the Belfast tribunal said was unrelenting homophobic bullying.

Stuewe had even implied that Mr Ferguson might be at risk of transmitting HIV because he was homosexual and used needles in his work, the tribunal was told.

Mr Ferguson took a case last month claiming harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation against Limavady Concierge Practitioners NI Ltd and CPNI Ambulance Services Ltd, of which Stuewe is the largest shareholder.

Mr Ferguson was a director and shareholder of both firms from 2012 until he left in September 2015.

Details of Lars Stuewe’s behaviour were given in the published tribunal judgment including two incidents in June and September 2014.

On both those occasions Stuewe implied that because Mr Ferguson used needles in his work he carried the risk of transmitting HIV as he was homosexual.

After he levelled the slur against him for a second time, Mr Ferguson reminded Stuewe that he was tested annually for the disease.

The tribunal accepted that following these remarks, Mr Ferguson felt he was under pressure to reassure colleagues he was tested for HIV on a yearly basis.

On a number of occasions Stuewe also made remarks about Mr Ferguson’s previous partner, who was then in a relationship with a woman, mocking Mr Ferguson by suggesting he had turned him from gay to heterosexual.

Stuewe also made daily throwaway negative comments regarding homosexuality with particular reference to Mr Ferguson’s body hair and one remark about “bum fun”.

The tribunal heard he also made hand and verbal gestures mimicking nausea, gagging, vomiting and shivers across his spine when talking about homosexual acts.

Mr Ferguson tried to reduce his contact with Stuewe until he saw him just once each week and raised the matter with another director, but nothing was done. In its judgement, the tribunal said it was satisfied that Stuewe made “grossly offensive” homophobic remarks and gestures at Mr Ferguson over “a lengthy period of time”.

The tribunal said the campaign of bullying made Mr Ferguson feel “useless and worthless” and affected his self-esteem.

Employment Judge Murray awarded him £15,000 for injury to feelings with a further £1,600 in accumulated interest from the date he left the firm until the date of the hearing.

Since the judgement, Lars Stuewe vehemently denies Mr Ferguson's allegations, claiming he did not have an opportunity to give evidence in his defence at the tribunal hearing.

Concierge Practitioners NI was the first private ambulance firm in Northern Ireland when it launched in August 2013, covering the area of the Western Health Trust.

The company, based in Limavady, provides non-emergency and private event services.

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