Working and earning

Employers have a positive duty to treat people equally in terms of recruitment, training, promotion and dismissal.


While being interviewed for a promotion, an applicant says that she has a female partner. Although she has all the skills and competences required for the position, the organisation decides not to offer her the promotion because she is a lesbian. This is unlawful direct discrimination.


James applied for a number of training courses offered by his company. All of the courses were relevant to his job and essential for access to promotion opportunities. His manager refused on each occasion, saying that he could not spare the time away from his usual work. However, the same manager regularly allowed other colleagues to go on training courses. As a result, several gained promotion. James overheard his manager say that gay people should not work for the company and he would never send James on training. This is direct discrimination.


Maria is a lesbian who decided not to come out to colleagues because she often heard them telling jokes that poke fun at other people, including lesbians and gay men. Maria was ‘outed’ at work by a colleague, who told everyone she is a lesbian because he saw her holding hands with another woman. She was summoned to her manager’s office, to be told she was being moved to another section because he could not work with a lesbian.

This is unlawful direct discrimination from her manager. It is also harassment from colleagues, both because she was outed as a lesbian and because of the discriminatory jokes to which she was subjected.

If you work in an environment where people tell jokes about different sexual orientations that you find offensive, or where people are picked on because of their perceived sexual orientation, this could be harassment.

If you have made a complaint about sexual orientation discrimination and you are subsequently treated badly because of having complained, this is unlawful victimisation.

Last Updated: 25 Jun 2009