An employment tribunal has dismissed claims of disability discrimination brought by a Wetherspoons bartender who was fired for making homophobic comments to LGBTQ+ colleagues.
In 2022, 21-year-old Thomas Richardson, who has autism, told a lesbian colleague at the Queen of Iceni pub in Norwich that “God would not forgive gay people.” He also said during Pride weekend he didn’t want the “gay thing shoved down [his] throat,” The Mirror reported.
When later questioned by managers about the incident, Richardson reportedly described himself as a “born again Christian” and compared the investigation to “totalitarianism during the 1930s in Eastern and Western Europe.”
He also admitted to making numerous “anti-woke” posts on Facebook, including calling the Black Lives Matter movement a “Marxist terrorist organisation.”
According to the tribunal judgment [PDF] published last month, Richardson was dismissed in August 2022 for gross misconduct after an investigation and disciplinary hearing. He then sued Wetherspoons for disability discrimination, claiming the company failed to make reasonable adjustments for his autism.
“One cannot simply ask employees to ignore homophobic insults” – Judge Martin Warren
Employment judge Martin Warren ultimately rejected Richardson’s remaining claim of disability discrimination linked to his autism. He stated: “Telling somebody that God will forgive them, (or not) for being gay is harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation…One cannot simply ask employees to ignore homophobic insults because the person saying them is autistic.”
In his ruling, Judge Warren found that Richardson’s sacking for gross misconduct was reasonable. Wetherspoons stated that it operates an equal, diversity and inclusion policy throughout its business.
In 2022, a former Wetherspoons chef who said he was a victim of homophobic bullying from colleagues had his claim against the company dismissed.