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Friday, 13 June 2008

Who, dear? You, dear? Gay, dear? I had no idea, dear!

A tribunal has heard how a woman who runs a religious centre near Brecon in Wales sent a 25-year-old gay man gift of a toilet roll with pink fairies on it, plus a card with Oscar Wilde's face on it. She has denied that she did it because she knew he was gay, because, she says, she didn't know he was gay.

But Stephen Price, a philosophy graduate, is claiming that she did, because she did.

Price, from Clydach near Abergavenny, claims 40-year-old Mair Jones taunted him, effectively bullying him out of his Presbyterian Church job at the Trefeca centre, a 37-bed retreat used by church groups from around the UK.

The gift of a toilet roll with pink fairies on it was innocently chosen, she told an employment tribunal.

According to the BBC website:

He had told the hearing he was forced to quit as the assistant manager because of Ms Jones's non-stop comments about sex, which included calling him a "stupid poof" and telling other staff he "batted for the other side".

But Jones has denied knowing Price was gay, and would not have said "batted for the other side" because that was not the sort of language she would use.

The story becomes rather bizarre and surreal, so we'll let the BBC tell the rest of it:

Philosophy graduate Mr Price told the tribunal that she gave him an "offensive" 24th birthday present of toilet roll with pink fairies on it and a card with a picture of Oscar Wilde.

But Ms Jones said the gift was an innocently chosen birthday present and the card came from an assorted box.

"He had only worked with us for a week when I found out it was his birthday and I wanted to mark the occasion," she said.

"I had a pack of toilet rolls with the Christmas designs and I just happened to pick the one with fairies on.

"When I think of Oscar Wilde I think intellect, good looks and wit – not the fact he was a homosexual.

"I was not aware he found my gift extremely offensive."

An internal church investigation had upheld claims of aggressive behaviour, foul language and bullying, but had failed to take any disciplinary action against Jones, who'd worked there for 10 years.

Price said he was "moved to another office in Cardiff after less than 12 months", but he resigned when he was told to return to the college. He's suing for constructive dismissal, and a decision is expected at a future hearing after submissions have been made.


oscar said...

what a hoot!

Federico Podeschi said...

Statement from Federico Podeschi, Managing Director of the LGBT Excellence Centre Wales, who represented Stephen Price.

“We are extremely delighted by the Employment Tribunal’s decision to uphold Stephen’s case. Stephen, as well as many other service users of our Helpline, is a clear example of how you can still be discriminated against simply for being gay.

This case particularly showed that, regardless of whether people want to “come out” or not, simply ignoring that people can be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, as well as heterosexual, is not acceptable. It also shows that once a grievance is raised, employers have a responsibility to investigate it as a potential case of unlawful discrimination or harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Presbyterian Church of Wales failed to both acknowledge Stephen’s claim and to investigate his allegations accurately.

The Employment Tribunal’s judgement described some of the behaviour that Stephen had to endure as grotesque and inappropriate. This should be a reminder that people can still carry prejudice and bias regardless of having a religious background or faith. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is unlawful and must be addressed. It is as simple as that.

We urge people to contact us to tell us their experience and to get advice and representation if they feel that they have been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Only through raising the issues that people still face, can we really raise awareness around what still goes on in the discrimination closet!”