HSBC Bank of London faces sexual discrimination charges

Angela D’Amboise | March 16, 2006

LONDON — A senior banker with HSBC says that his reasons for firing a colleague had nothing to do with his being gay, despite accusations that the reason listed as gross personal misconduct refered to his sexuality.

“At no time did I take the claimant's sexuality into my decision-making,” Mark Bucknall, co-head of global investment banking at HSBC, who manages about 750 people, told an employment tribunal in London Wednesday.

According to Reuters, Bucknall was giving evidence to the tribunal in east London’s Stratford district where Peter Lewis, formerly head of HSBC's global equity trading business, has made a 5-million-pound unfair dismissal claim against the company.

According to tribunal documents, Lewis was accused by a former colleague of masturbating in the shower cubicle next to him in HSBC's gym and of staring at him in a way which made the former colleague feel uncomfortable.

Lewis denies the sexual harassment incident. HSBC denies discrimination on sexual orientation or other grounds.

Reuters reports that this is just the latest in a string of discrimination lawsuits brought against banks in London's financial centre, but it is one of the first major claims that focuses on unfair dismissal on grounds of sexual orientation.

Bucknall said Lewis had been a key hire for HSBC, one of the world's largest banks, and that the negative impact of his dismissal in business terms should not be underestimated.

“Given this impact, the claimant's assertion that, because of his sexual orientation, HSBC was predisposed to believe the allegations of sexual harassment made against him, is ridiculous,” he said. The case continues this week. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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