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Our Employment Solicitor on what to do if you are being subjected to gay jokes in the office

By Practice Group Leader, Employment

You’re gay and want to keep it quiet at work but keep getting jokes on the assumption you are gay. It’s your private life and you assume people are smart enough to know that jokes about sexuality are completely inappropriate. Right? Sadly, you’re wrong. Jokes about sexual orientation are an everyday occurrence shrugged off as “workplace banter”.

If you are on the receiving end of these jokes what can you do about it? Here are our tips for you.  

1 - Stop it at the source.
As a starting point, ask your colleagues to stop. They may not realise they are causing offence or that the comments are unwanted. A polite request could get you results quickly and without the need to make a formal complaint.   

2 - Speak to someone who can do something about it.
If the jokes don’t stop, then speak to your manager. Most employers encourage their staff to raise concerns informally with their manager before resorting to a formal complaint. Hopefully your colleagues will follow direction from someone in a position of power..

3 - Take formal action.
If the behaviour continues you might choose to lodge a formal complaint at work, often referred to as a grievance. This could result in action being taken against those making inappropriate jokes. To find out more about lodging a grievance please view our 'Grievance Procedures factsheet'.

4 - Raise a Tribunal claim.
You may have a Discrimination claim against your employer and your colleagues, including a sexual orientation harassment claim. Under the Equality Act 2010 sexual orientation harassment in employment is unlawful. To find out more about discrimination and harassment please view our factsheets 'Sexual Orientation Discrimination' and 'Bullying and Harassment'

If you are considering lodging a claim you should speak to an Employment Law Solicitor without delay to make sure you do not miss important Employment Tribunal deadlines.

5 - Take extreme action.
Upsetting treatment at work might give you grounds to resign and claim Constructive Dismissal. We would never advise taking this step unless you had taken legal advice on the specific circumstances at that time. We may be able to assist you to negotiate an exit from your job with a financial package and a reference. To find out more about constructive dismissal please view our factsheet 'Constructive Dismissal'.

Our solicitors can help you come up with the best strategy for dealing with difficult workplace issues. We can help you resolve matters informally, raise a formal grievance setting out your problems, or negotiate an exit from your job. Our solicitors can also provide specialist advice on Employment Tribunal Claims.
If you would like to take advice please contact us on 0800 916 9060 or email us on

By Employment Solicitor Paula Chan.