Gay Royal Navy officer wins £46,000 after he was made to feel ‘sub-human’ by accommodation policy which ‘forced him to disclose his sexuality to colleagues’
- Officer offered unsuitable housing which did not take account of circumstances
- Email disclosing his sexuality was circulated to other officers against his wishes
- Navy breached Equality Act by giving married men more accommodation choice
- Tribunal found this policy would have disproportionate effect on gay personnel
A gay Royal Navy officer has won £46,000 after he was made to feel ‘sub-human’ by a discriminatory accommodation policy which forced him to come out against his wishes.
The anonymous serviceman told an employment tribunal he was discriminated against by Navy guidelines on providing housing for officers – which meant he had had to disclose his sexuality to colleagues.
He successfully argued that the Royal Navy breached the Equality Act by cutting the types of accommodation it offered single men to just one – while giving married couples the option of two to choose from.
The tribunal found that the policy would have ‘a disproportionate effect on the group of Service Personnel who identify as gay’ as members of the LGB community are ‘less likely to be married or in a civil partnership than heterosexual service personnel’.
When the officer sent an email flagging his issues with the accommodation policy, this email – which included details of his sexual orientation – was circulated to other officers without his consent.
The officer, described as a ‘high-flyer with an impressive range of skills and qualities’ who displayed ‘consistently high performance’, was awarded £46,959 by an employment judge, including more than £25,000 for ‘injury to feelings’.
The tribunal heard that after being assigned to the Ministry of Defence site at Abbey Wood (pictured) near Bristol in July 2017, the officer was offered unsuitable accommodation which ‘failed to take proper account of his circumstances’
The serviceman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the hearing: ‘I have found the whole experience stressful, draining and a distraction from just being able to lead a normal life.
‘[It] makes me feel that somehow I am sub-human and not worthy of the consideration that others would receive.’
The tribunal heard that after being assigned to the Ministry of Defence site at Abbey Wood near Bristol in July 2017, the officer applied for accommodation in central Bristol.
He said he was offered unsuitable accommodation which ‘failed to take proper account of his circumstances’, and so he attempted to resolve the matter informally.
After raising concerns about accommodation with his careers officer, the panel heard he was told: ‘It shows you can suffer, so you have potential for leadership.’
The officer – named only as XA in the tribunal’s judgment – was also faced with the ‘difficult’ situation of explaining his sexual orientation for the first time to senior officers in the team.
He sent an email flagging the accommodation issues which was then circulated to other officers, revealing his sexual orientation against his wishes and causing him a ‘sleepless night’ feeling ‘deeply anxious’.
The tribunal described the MOD’s ‘failures to follow [their own] sound policies’ as pointing to a ‘serious gap’ between the requirements of the polices and ‘the level of understanding amongst staff operating them’.
A tribunal found that the accommodation policy would have a ‘a disproportionate effect on the group of Service Personnel who identify as gay’ as members of the LGB community are ‘less likely to be married or in a civil partnership than heterosexual service personnel’. (Stock image)
By ‘casually circulating’ information about the officer’s sexual orientation, the tribunal said there were ‘repeated breaches of confidentiality’.
In their judgement the tribunal, sitting in Bristol, said: ‘We have evidence of the stress and anxiety on each occasion.
‘There has been a failure to recognise or apologise for breaches of confidentiality and no steps taken to prevent further casual circulation of his circumstances, or “outing”.
‘Those have had a significant impact on him, aggravating his distress and anxiety.’
The Royal Navy had argued that its 2016 decision to change its housing policy had been done for cost reasons.
This was rejected by the judge, who ruled that ‘no business need has been demonstrated’.
Employment Judge Martha Street said: ‘LGB service personnel were disproportionately affected by the loss of choice of substitute service accommodation imposed on those entitled to single substitute service accommodation and were disadvantaged by the lack of choice.’
The tribunal described the MOD’s ‘failures to follow [their own] sound policies’ as pointing to a ‘serious gap’ between the requirements of the polices and ‘the level of understanding amongst staff operating them’. (Stock image)
In his victim impact statement, the officer said he ‘felt insulted and upset that the needs of the gay community had not been considered’.
He added: ‘Whilst I am obviously upset at the fact that the needs of the gay community have not been considered, it is the lack of contrition for failing to do so that really grates.’
The officer also blasted the Navy’s admission that equality analysis was ‘handled in conversation in the office’.
He said: ‘Their suggestion that they just chat about equality in the office seemed to suggest that the required rigorous consideration of the needs of protected characteristics had been reduced to the same level as that of discussing the previous night’s football match.’
The judgement expressed ‘concern’ that the accommodation policy to offer reduced choice to single people ‘remains unchanged in spite of the tribunal’s findings and in spite of the time that has passed’.
It added: ‘At present there is no certainty about whether that will progress to implementation in 2023 and on the evidence we heard, an allowance based system is not likely to be wholly implemented within five years.’
The tribunal urged the MOD to take steps to ensure ‘compliance with their own diversity and inclusion policies’, rather than taking a ‘tick box’ approach to equality with ‘no culture of understanding’.
Gay and lesbian citizens have been allowed to serve openly in His Majesty’s Armed Forces after the ban was lifted in 2000 – shortly before the officer joined.
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