Sexual Orientation and Discrimination in Goods & Services

Taking action


Taking action about discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the grounds of sexual orientation can be difficult and you may need specialist help and advice.

The information on these pages only outline the procedure and we recommend that you seek individual advice if you are intending to take action.

Although there is now a specific law dealing with sexual orientation and discrimination in goods and services, using that law may not always be the quickest or most effective way of resolving a problem.

When considering action to tackle discrimination you need to consider the following:-

If your priority is getting the problem resolved quickly at an early stage. You may be able to achieve this by negotiating with the person/body who you feels has discriminated against you, or by using an established grievance or complaints procedure. However, you need to be aware that there are time limits for taking legal action.

For example, if you wanted a housing transfer and you believed you were being denied through discrimination. It may be quicker to try to enforce you rights under the tenancy agreement or through the local authority's stated policy, rather than take a case under the sexual orientation discrimination legislation.

If you do not want to use other options, or if you have tried these methods with no success, you can:-

Intention to discriminate

When taking action about discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, you do not have to demonstrate that there was an intention to discriminate against you. It is merely necessary to show that discrimination took place. However, if it can be proven that there was an intention to discriminate, this may affect the amount of damages a court will award.

Finding a comparator

When taking action against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, a comparison must normally be made between how a person of a particular sexual orientation has been treated compared to how someone of another sexual orientation has been treated. However, if the complainant cannot identify a comparator who is being treated, or has been treated, more favourably, s/he can still take a case if s/he can show that a comparator would have been treated more favourably (a hypothetical comparator).

Evidence and witnesses

It is important to gather any evidence and details of witnesses of the discrimination. If there are witnesses, you will need to know whether they would be prepared to give evidence. This is particularly important if you decide that you want to take legal action.

Possible costs involved

It is important to consider the possible costs involved in taking action. You may be able to get help with court fees and in some cases may be eligable for Legal Aid. If no sources of help are available, you may have to pay a solicitor to represent you.

Going to court – how a case is dealt with

If a person is applying to a county court (sheriff court in Scotland), s/he must do so within six months of the date of the discriminatory act s/he is complaining about.

Questions procedure

It is useful for the person who believes s/he has been discriminated against to use what is known as the 'questions procedure' by completing a questionnaire.

There is no obligation on the claimant to use the questionnaire before making a claim to court, but s/he may find it very useful to use the questionnaire to gain information form the respondent. The questionnaire can help a person assess whether s/he has been discriminated against. It also helps to gather more information about the reasons for her/his treatment. Using a questionnaire is not compulsory but it will be useful because:-

If the time limit for applying to the county court is getting close, a person who wants to take court action should not wait to send out her/his questionnaire but should register her/his claim at the county court