Torment of a married trader whom 'macho' bullies in the City falsely accused of being gay in six-year bullying campaign Barney James claimed he was victim of harassment from colleagues He says co-workers took drugs, used prostitutes and watched porn at workCase has now been settled after discussions between the parties
22:05 GMT, 22 April 2013
07:00 GMT, 23 April 2013
A city trader was the victim of a sustained campaign of homophobic bullying by ‘macho and boorish’ colleagues despite being a happily married, heterosexual father of two, a tribunal heard.
For almost six years, Barney James claimed he was the victim of relentless harassment from fellow bankers, who he says took drugs, used prostitutes and watched pornography at work.
Mr James, 33, alleged that he was regularly referred to by derogatory names such as ‘fat homo’ and ‘big angry gay’ at US investment bank BGC Partners LP.
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The East London Employment Tribunal heard how Mr James, who earned a six-figure salary as a broker on the equity derivatives desk, was sent a torrent of abusive homophobic emails, including hard-core gay pornographic images.
On one occasion, which he described as ‘extremely distressing’, a text message was sent from his mobile phone – left briefly unattended during a night out with clients and colleagues – to his elderly mother. The message said he had finally decided to ‘come out’ as gay.
On another occasion, he returned to his desk to find his computer screen saver had been changed to show ‘highly explicit homosexual pornographic images’ and the settings of his mouse altered to make it difficult for him to remove the photographs.
Mr James, of Crawley, West Sussex, claims that despite repeated complaints to management, no action was taken and his situation became ‘untenable’, leading to his resignation in 2011.
In a witness statement he said: ‘From the very start of my employment [in 2005] I was subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and I was frequently referred to as being gay despite the fact that I am straight.’
Alex Bergin-McCarthy, (pictured ) was accused of sending Mr James offensive messages, and calling 'boring, sad, fat, gay, ****' and complained that sitting next to him would make him gay, the tribunal heard
He added: ‘From the outset of my time at BGC the atmosphere on the desk could best be described as macho and boorish.
‘This manifested itself in the wide scale use of illegal drugs, consumption of alcohol during the working day, use of prostitutes, viewing porn on PCs in the office and visits to strip clubs in and around the City.
‘This behaviour was well-known to management but was not challenged and even seemed to be encouraged by senior staff who frequently attended nights out which would involve heavy drinking, taking illegal drugs and visits to strip clubs.’
One of those accused of sending Mr James offensive messages was Alex Bergin-McCarthy, who described Mr James as a ‘boring, sad, fat, gay, ****’ and complained that sitting next to him would make him gay, the tribunal heard.
Mr James said he attempted to deal with the abuse by ‘trying to grin and bear it’ and that he did not make a formal complaint because to do so, would have been ‘professional suicide’.
But Schona Jolly, the lawyer for BGC, asked Mr James if what he experienced was nothing more sinister than banter. She said: ‘As a 6ft 3in rugby player, who is married with children, that was the joke as you are clearly not gay.’
He replied that this was not the case as he found it ‘heartbreaking’.
He said he felt he had no choice but to resign, describing his decision to do so, ‘in the middle of a recession’ as a ‘massive step’, adding: ‘Especially as at the time I had a pregnant wife who does not work and a small child.’
It was not made clear in the hearing why the alleged homophobic bullying first began but Mr James said that it could not be dismissed as banter or a joke.
Miss Jolly also asked Mr James if he had ever witnessed drug-taking at work. He admitted that he hadn’t but said the subject was regularly discussed in the office and that his colleagues boasted of having done so.
He told the tribunal: ‘Certain colleagues I suspect of being heavy drug users.’
He was suing the bank for substantial damages on the grounds of constructive dismissal.
However, after one day of last week’s scheduled four-day hearing, the case was settled after discussions between the parties.
BGC is one of the world’s leading brokerage companies with an annual turnover of around 800million. BGC said it did not wish to comment on Mr James’s allegations.