Theatre critic Mark Shenton loses Employment Tribunal claim

MoJA leading theatre critic who made an Employment Tribunal claim against his former employer, a major Sunday newspaper, has lost his case.

Mark Shenton, a former theatre critic for the Sunday Express, claimed that he had been sacked from his job at the paper after a former partner of his had put naked pictures of him on a gay website in an act of “revenge porn”. He made claims for unfair dismissal, direct sexual orientation discrimination, and sexual orientation-related harassment.

Mr Shenton’s claim came before the South London Employment Tribunal in August 2014, with Employment Judge Cheetham chairing the Employment Tribunal. The Employment Tribunal was told that pictures of Mr Shenton were on a “gay porn” website named Bulk Male and that his employer, Express Newspapers, had been informed of that fact in November 2013. A disciplinary process was carried out relating to this and Mr Shenton was subsequently dismissed for bringing the Express Newspaper into disrepute. Mr Shenton claimed that he had been sacked because he is homosexual and also claimed that he had been subjected t o the following detriments: firstly, that he had not been provided with any evidence or details relating to the allegations before various meetings; secondly, that two of the Sunday Express’ employees made unfair and humiliating comments about Mr Shenton; and, thirdly, that a Sunday Express employee had made remarks to the effect that the photographs were unacceptable and not something the newspaper wished to be associated with.

The Employment Tribunal found that Mr Shenton was not an “employee” for the purposes of s.230 Employment Rights Act 1996 and could therefore not bring a claim for unfair dismissal. The Tribunal also found against Mr Shenton in all of his claims for direct sexual orientation discrimination and sexual orientation-related harassment, holding that the Sunday Express employees involved would have reacted in a similar manner whether the photographs were of heterosexual or homosexual porn.

A spokesman for Northern and Shell, owner of Express Newspapers stated: “After going through this robust legal process we are very pleased that the Tribunal has found in our favour on all counts.”

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the claim: “In order for a claimant to succeed with a direct sexual orientation discrimination claim, the claimant must show that he or she was treated less favourably than a comparable employee in the workplace who was not of the same sexual orientation.”

A copy of the Employment Tribunal judgment can be found here.