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Belfast Trust pays out £2k after manager’s ‘bad tempered’ Pride poster exchange with worker 

Oh here we go’ said boss after worker claimed actions could be perceived as ‘homophobic’ 

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Belfast Trust employee Rory Harbinson. Pic: Equality Commission.

Belfast Trust employee Rory Harbinson. Pic: Equality Commission.

Belfast Trust employee Rory Harbinson. Pic: Equality Commission.

The Belfast Health Trust has settled a case of harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation to a gay employee for £2,000 following an incident between the man and his manager over Pride posters.

The case was assisted by the Equality Commission, with the Belfast Trust paying the sum with no admission of liability.

In July 2019, trust employee Rory Harbinson printed out a number of Belfast Pride posters that were advertised by his employers on its staff intranet, seeking volunteers for its stand and encouraging staff to take part.

He placed them on public display in his place of work but when Mr Harbinson returned to work the next day, most of the posters had been taken down.

Mr Harbinson explained that another member of staff told him that the manager had taken them down and had said, ‘He [Rory] would not be one bit happy’ about it.

After confronting his manager about the removal of the posters, there was a “bad-tempered” exchange.

He said he told his manager that he was not going to get into a debate with them and walked away.

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Mr Harbinson stated that the manager came into his office 10 minutes later in a very aggressive manner, shouting at him and carrying the posters that had been removed.

He tried to explain that the trust was promoting Belfast Pride and had invited staff to promote it.

When he said that she could be perceived as homophobic, she said: “Oh here we go.”

In addition to paying £2,000 without admission of liability, the trust also re-affirmed its commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity and that it will continue to ensure that it conforms to all relevant equality legislation applicable to Northern Ireland.

It has also agreed to liaise with the Equality Commission in respect of its policies, practices and procedures.

Mr Harbinson said he was happy to settle the case as it was a very “unpleasant experience” and he felt “shocked and humiliated” by the episode.

“It seemed that putting the trust posters up brought all this anger and hostility down on my head,” he said.

“It was not just taking down the posters, but the way I was treated after this incident that I found so hard to accept.

“I felt that my being gay made the posters somehow more offensive to my manager. And I’m very grateful for the support of the Equality Commission throughout.”

Director of Legal Services at the Equality Commission Anne McKernan, said it was an incident that “escalated” and ended up in a discrimination case.

“There were two main issues involved here,” Ms McKernan said. “The first is to do with the removal of the posters.

“Our view is it is legitimate for an organisation at corporate level to endorse the principles of equality and diversity and to promote those goals.

“So when an employer commits to supporting and promoting an initiative like Belfast Pride, it should ensure that there is clarity around the promotion of its material within the workplace and that all employees are clear on this.

“The second is that promoting dignity and respect for and amongst employees is a critical part of developing a good and harmonious workplace.”

The Belfast Trust has been contacted for comment.


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