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Ex-Banker Appeals Gay-Bias Case Ruling

July 05, 2006|From Bloomberg News

A former senior banker at HSBC Holdings in London is appealing an employment panel's ruling that he wasn't fired because he is gay.

Peter Lewis, HSBC's former global head of equities trading, brought a $9.2-million bias claim against the British bank after he was dismissed in 2004 for allegedly sexually harassing a male co-worker. A London tribunal ruled in May that although the ex-banker had been discriminated against, he wasn't fired because of his sexuality.

Lewis is challenging that decision on the grounds that the disciplinary process was "tainted" by discrimination, Alison Downie, Lewis' lawyer, said Tuesday. The appeal, which was filed June 13, will be heard by the Employment Appeals Tribunal in London.

Lewis' claim is the largest gay-bias case brought to a British tribunal and the first by a high-profile financial professional. The case came more than two years after Britain outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation.

HSBC, Europe's largest bank by market value, has lodged a separate appeal, contending that the tribunal's findings of discrimination contradicted parts of Lewis' own case, HSBC lawyer Mark Mansell said.

The banker was fired after a colleague complained that Lewis engaged in a sex act in front of him in the gym at HSBC's headquarters. Lewis called that allegation "ludicrous" in testimony before the tribunal and claimed that HSBC would never have believed the allegation if he was heterosexual.

The tribunal backed Lewis on four of his 16 discrimination claims against the lender, relating to its investigation of the gym complaint and the decision to suspend him. The tribunal rejected his remaining claims against HSBC, finding that the initial mishandling of Lewis' case didn't affect the disciplinary process.

The tribunal also cleared senior HSBC executives involved in the decision to dismiss Lewis, including Mark Bucknall, former co-head of investment banking, of allegations that they were motivated by anti-gay bias.

HSBC is appealing the four claims in which Lewis prevailed.

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