A locksmith in England has been ordered to pay £7,500 in compensation for making ‘discriminatory gestures’ at a gay customer – the first time a business has been ordered to pay damages for discrimination that was entirely non-verbal.
Peter Edwards, 30, blew a ‘sarcastic kiss’ at the man – only identified as Tim – as he walked out of Taylor Edwards in Southend, Essex following a dispute over a refund in late 2013.
Over the following months, Edwards made another 20 ‘homophobic’ gestures as Tim walked past the store.
‘He would wink at me, limp wrist, [make the shape of a] tea pot, kiss at me and what I would class as a vile, vulgar homophobic gesture as well, inferring oral sex with a male. That was the most offensive,’ Tim told the BBC.
‘I was his joke, his bit of fun, his source of amusement. I don’t know what his mindset was. It was surreal. I was stressed out by it and distressed.’
Tim then took the company to a county court under the Equality Act 2010, which prevents anyone supplying goods or services from discriminating against customers on grounds including race, religion, disability and sexual orientation.
The judge ruled that the incident was ‘not a minor event’ and awarded Tim £7,500 in damages.
‘So far as I am aware, this was the first case of discrimination by a service provider, where all the acts of discrimination were gestures not words,’ said Barrister Catherine Casserley, who conducted the trial, in a statement.
‘The case also shows that the Equality Act 2010 can protect people against acts of discrimination that occurred even after they stop being customers of the business in question.’
Tim said he issued the case,one of only a small number of legal cases brought against a service provider for the homophobic actions of its staff, to prevent future incidents of discrimination and/or homophobia occurring.
‘I will be absolutely chuffed if this case prevents one person from carrying out a homophobic act in the future,’ he said.