A&O secures HSBC sexual discrimination appeal victory

Allen & Overy (A&O) has scored an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) victory against HSBC’s former senior banker, who claimed he was discriminated against for being gay.

Peter Lewis, HSBC’s former head of global equities, claimed the bank had mishandled an investigation into allegations of gross misconduct because of his sexual orientation.

A colleague, known only as Mr A, alleged Lewis masturbated next to him in the firm’s gym showers in 2004 and gave a false name when asked.

HSBC said that Lewis was dismissed for gross misconduct following a complaint of sexual harassment made against him by a member of staff and for no other reason.

The case was one of the first to come before a tribunal under sex discrimination legislation, which was extended to homosexuals in December 2003.

Lewis originally sued the bank for £5m last year and lost on 12 of his 16 claims. The EAT, however, allowed an appeal on four claims.

The latest case, as a result, centred on whether the way HSBC investigated the accusation against Lewis was discriminatory. The tribunal ruled that Lewis’s claims were “not well-founded”.

Mark Mansell, A&O’s lead employment partner for HSBC, said: “This is a vindication both for the procedures that were followed and the individuals that were involved with them.”

Head of employment at Bindmans & Partners Alison Downie acted for Lewis and instructed Chris Quinn of Littleton Chambers.

A&O instructed Andrew Hochhauser QC of Essex Court and Thomas Linden QC of Matrix Chambers as lead counsel for HSBC.