Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Top Belfast publican groped gay employee's groin and asked lesbian manager for sex

Publican Bryan West
Publican Bryan West

A Belfast publican groped a gay male employee’s groin and asked a young lesbian manager for sex, Employment Tribunals have been told.

Flamboyant businessman Bryan West has been slammed by Tribunal panels over what they labelled his humiliating and degrading treatment of staff at a lesbian, gay and bi-sexual (LGBT) themed restaurant he launched in the city centre.

The 66-year-old veteran of the Belfast bar scene, whose current interests include The Point in Ballyhackamore, has been ordered to personally pay compensation to two employees — a gay man and a lesbian — he was found to have harassed at the Rainbow Garland on Botanic Avenue.

The Tribunals heard claims that Mr West:

  •  routinely called restaurant staff “stupid lesbians”, “dykes” and “poofs”
  •  drunkenly grabbed a male employee’s groin after making a comment about his “bulge”
  •  called the same gay man a “faggot” and “stupid poof” and
  •  made repeated comments about a lesbian senior employee’s chest and once asked her to sleep with him.

Both claimants represented themselves at the hearings but Mr West and Rainbow Garland were not represented, did not appear and did not lodge response forms.

The gay male claimant was identified only as XY by the Tribunal panel in its damning written judgment.

The panel awarded him £20,000 compensation for harassment suffered — £15,000 to be paid by Rainbow Garland Ltd and £5,000 to be paid personally by Bryan West, a director of the firm.

It found XY had been harassed by Bryan West at Rainbow Garland on the grounds of sexual orientation and was subjected to discrimination on the grounds of his sexual orientation.

The man said Mr West continually called him a “stupid poof” in front of staff and customers.

He claimed that one night at the end of July 2012 Mr West, who had been drinking heavily, assaulted him by “groping him in the groin area”.

XY said he had been serving dinner to Mr West and guests at the restaurant. As XY was serving guests Mr West returned to the table and made a comment about his “bulge”. XY said his hands were full of plates as Mr West grabbed his groin and “had a good feel”.

The tribunal panel said: “It was clear during the hearing that the claimant remained extremely and visibly upset, embarrassed and humiliated by the treatment which he had suffered, often in front of colleagues and customers of the restaurant. The claimant felt very degraded  to have been continually denigrated as ‘stupid’.”

It added: “The tribunal was particularly shocked and appalled that the claimant had been subjected to a sexual assault in the workplace.”

Mr West’s was also blasted over his treatment of Gemma Hutton, who had been employed as events manager at Rainbow Garland.

Ms Hutton was awarded £16,000 compensation, of which Mr West was ordered to cough up £4,000.

It found Ms Hutton, who joined the firm in July 2012, was sexually harassed by Bryan West and sexually harassed by him on the grounds of her sexual orientation.

She said that when West had been drinking would make comments about the size of her chest and make sexual comments about barmaids.

Ms Hutton said she was “shocked and horrified” when on a Monday shortly before last Christmas Mr West asked if she would sleep with him.

The panel said: “The tribunal found as a fact that the claimant was subjected both to comments about the size of her chest and that she was propositioned in her workplace by Mr West who asked her to sleep with him.

“The tribunal was shocked to hear that this type of entirely offensive and objectionable behaviour had taken place in a Northern Ireland work-place in the 21st century.

“The tribunal found as a fact that Mr West frequently and continually referred to the claimant and her colleagues as “poofs”, ‘stupid lesbians’ or ‘dykes.”