Durham City Council has been found guilty of discriminating against a gay theatre worker who suffered months of bullying and harassment at the hands of his manager. The council were also found to have constructively and unfairly dismissed Mr Gismondi. The manager was also found to have discriminated against Mr Gismondi.

Fausto Gismondi, who was Group Bookings Coordinator at Durham's Gala Theatre, was repeatedly referred to as "gay boy" by his manager Ed Tutty, a press officer for Durham City Council.

The tribunal said that the council's conduct in failing to take steps against Mr Tutty "ought to cause them considerable shame". The Tribunal referred to the process the council did take as "an utter shambles", and "they have signally failed in their duty to an employee who has been bullied and harassed, contrary to their own express policies", the tribunal ruled. The tribunal commented that "it is hard to envisage conduct more likely to shatter the trust and confidence of an employee in his employer".

Durham City Council and the harasser were both found by the tribunal to have breached the Sexual Orientation Regulations. It is one of the first cases to have succeeded under the regulations since they became law in December 2003. His case was backed throughout by his trade union Bectu and by union lawyers Thompsons.

Mr Gismondi said: "The tribunal's decision is a huge relief. No one should have to endure that sort of treatment at work. And yet the council failed to do anything to stop the harassment.

"I want to make all employers understand that it is against the law to turn a blind eye to this sort of discrimination."

Fausto's lawyer, Jo White of Thompsons Newcastle said: "This is an important decision because it highlights the responsibilities employers have under the sexual orientation regulations. Gay men and women have the same rights to be treated equally and with respect as anyone else at work. There have been very few successful cases taken under the regulations so far, because as with all cases of discrimination it is very difficult to prove. I hope Fausto's successful decision will encourage others who have or who are suffering similar treatment to come forward and utilise these Regulations."

BECTU legal officer Andy Egan commented: "Every worker is entitled to go about their working lives without fear of discrimination or victimisation. The treatment meted out to our member was appalling, and we are glad to have been able to seek redress for him successfully. We hope employers throughout this country will get the message that they cannot stand by and allow bullying and harassment of gay workers: the trade unions will take action."