A prominent Belfast businessman and former owner of the city’s first LGBT restaurant has been found guilty by an employment tribunal of sexual harassment, and has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds to two former employees.
Bryan West, a 66-year-old publican from Belfast, ran the gay-friendly Rainbow Garland restaurant on Botanic Avenue in the city’s south quarter, which closed down last year after a brief trading period. The Industrial Tribunal and Fair Employment Tribunal of Northern Ireland heard from two of West’s former employees – Ms. Gemma Hutton and a gay male employee who was identified only as “XY” – who both filed complaints of sexual harassment against Mr West.
The Tribunal heard from the complainants that West had been regularly verbally abusive of staff at the restaurant, and had groped XY’s crotch on-site while drunk. XY also claimed that West had regularly called him a “stupid poof” among other derogatory names. One incident was also reported, where Mr West commented on the size of Ms Hutton’s chest and asked her to sleep with him.
“It was clear during the hearing that [XY] remained extremely and visibly upset, embarrassed and humiliated by the treatment which he had suffered,” the Tribunal reported on the XY case, “often in front of colleagues and customers of the restaurant. The claimant felt very degraded to have been continually denigrated as ‘stupid’.”
Regarding Ms Hutton, the Tribunal also ruled unanimously:
- That the first respondent is hereby ordered to pay to the claimant the sum of £518.62 in respect of outstanding holiday pay.
- That the first respondent is hereby ordered to pay to the claimant the sum of £145.92 in respect of notice monies.
- That the first respondent is hereby ordered to pay to the claimant the sum of £228.00 in respect of unpaid wages.
- That the claimant was sexually harassed by Bryan West, a director/employee of the first respondent.
- That the claimant was also harassed by Bryan West on the grounds of her sexual orientation.
- The first respondent is hereby ordered to pay to the claimant compensation in respect of that harassment in the sum of £12,000.00. In addition, Bryan West is hereby ordered personally to pay to the claimant compensation in the sum of £4,000.00 in respect of his harassment of the claimant in the course of her employment.
“The tribunal was shocked to hear that this type of entirely offensive and objectionable behaviour had taken place in a Northern Ireland work-place in the 21st century.
“The tribunal found as a fact that Mr West frequently and continually referred to the claimant and her colleagues as “poofs”, ‘stupid lesbians’ or ‘dykes.”
The Tribunal panel unanimously decided to award a total of £36,000 (€41,800) in compensation to Ms Hutton and XY, of which Mr West must personally pay £9,000. XY was awarded £20,000 for sexual harassment (with West to pay £5,000) while Ms Hutton was awarded £16,000, with West to personally pay £4,000.