Employment Tribunal finds that police officer was bullied for being gay

hmctsA gay police officer has won his claim for discrimination after a tribunal ruled that he had been harassed, victimised and discriminated against whilst working for the Metropolitan Police.

PC Dan Lichters, 34, has succeeded with his claim for sexual orientation discrimination, harassment and victimisation against the Metropolitan Police after he alleged that he had been subjected to derogatory comments and subjected to a “campaign to remove him” because of his sexuality.

PC Lichters, who joined the Metropolitan Police in 2007 and works as a dog handler, alleged that the following had happened during the course of his employment:

  • That a senior officer had, upon learning that PC Lichters was openly gay, said to him “oh, you’re one of those are you?”
  • That another inspector had told him: “We don’t want queers in the dog section”
  • That he was asked whether he had “shagged any other celebrities”, a reference to his friendship with TV entertainer Michael Barrymore
  • That, when the puppy he was rearing was attacked and injured by a pitbull, rumours were spread by colleagues that he was “having gay sex on Hampstead Heath” and had neglected the dog
  • That he had been accused of gross misconduct and had been threatened with criminal sanctions after his police dog bit a member of the public that attacked it

PC Lichters took his claims for direct discrimination, harassment and victimisation to the Employment Tribunal last year and his case was heard earlier this year.

The Employment Tribunal panel released its judgment earlier this month, ruling that PC Lichters was an “exemplary officer”, that all of the accusations he had faced were groundless, and that he had been targetted by other officers because he is gay.

The Employment Tribunal’s judgment further stated: “In our judgment that lack of trust, suspicion and dislike of the claimant existed throughout the [MPS’ Dog Support] Unit. It arose [from] or was inextricably linked to his sexual orientation. We were not given any other basis for it. There was no evidence that his behaviour within the unit warranted this treatment or mistrust by colleagues or senior officers. The incidents were linked by the respondent’s attitude towards the claimant – which was one of mistrust, disbelief, dislike and suspicion throughout his time in the unit when the evidence shows he was a hard-working and exemplary officer.”

A further hearing will be held at the Employment Tribunal in order to determine how much compensation PC Lichters will be awarded.

Mr Lichters commented after the Tribunal’s judgment was released: “I have suffered five years of discrimination, victimisation and harassment due to my sexual orientation. I feel completely vindicated by the tribunal who said they believed my account entirely. I wish to carry on serving the public as a police officer, but hope the Metropolitan Police learn from the tribunal’s findings.”

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers must make sure that their staff are provided with equality and diversity training and that, should allegations of discrimination, harassment or victimisation be raised, steps are taken to investigate these allegations promptly, fairly and efficiently. A failure to ensure that these steps are taken can potentially lead to litigation.”