Firefighter sacked after he called gay colleague ‘Arthur’

Mason Boycott-OwenFri, 19 February 2021, 6:24 pm

An employment tribunal heard that when a colleague asked Mr Staines why he had called him “half a man,” he replied: “well, I can’t call him Stumpy of Dwarf.”   - PA/Clara Molden
An employment tribunal heard that when a colleague asked Mr Staines why he had called him “half a man,” he replied: “well, I can’t call him Stumpy of Dwarf.” – PA/Clara Molden

A firefighter has been sacked after he called a gay colleague “Arthur”, being told that the nickname could be homophobic.

Philip Staines called his fellow fireman Johnny Metcalfe “Arthur” because of his stature, which Mr Metcalfe took to be a derogatory term for his sexuality.

An employment tribunal heard that when a colleague asked Mr Staines why he had called him “half a man,” he replied: “well, I can’t call him Stumpy of Dwarf.”

He denied that it was meant as a derogatory homophobic comment.

An investigation by the fire service into the incident in Grassington, North Yorkshire, concluded that it was not intended to be homophobic but “it is recognised that Mt Metcalfe has reasonably interpreted the wording to have a homophobic connotation and it has caused offence.”

After hearing that Mr Staines had also made degrading comments to a female colleague, Jonathan Dyson, the Area Manager decided to dismiss him for a breach of the service’s code of conduct.

When Mr Staines lost an appeal against his dismissal he launched his claim for unfair dismissal and breach of contract against North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Employment Judge Buckley ruled that it was ‘reasonable’ for Mr Metcalfe to have viewed the comments as a reference to his sexual orientation and taken offence.

She said: “It appears obvious to me that ‘half a man’ might be interpreted by a gay man as an offensive comment on their sexual orientation. In my view [Mr Staines] ought also to have appreciated that.”

She also ruled that Mr Staines had belittled a female worker by joking to a colleague “you’ve’ got her well trained” when she answered the telephone.

The tribunal dismissed his claim of unfair dismissal.

However, the judge added: “In my view, the conduct was certainly sufficient serious to merit dismissal with notice because the claimant was under a final written warning, but I find that the respondent was not entitled to dismiss the claimant without notice.”

As a result the tribunal awarded Mr Staines his notice pay plus 10 per cent for breach of contract.