“Magic circle” law firm Clifford Chance reportedly paid an undisclosed sum in settlement to a former partner last month in possibly the first discrimination claim in the UK against a law firm on the grounds of sexual orientation. Mr Bryceland’s claim was withdrawn in April 2007 but is understood to have alleged both direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of his sexual orientation. Although the settlement and original damages sought remain confidential, compensation for actual and future loss of earnings for a magic circle partner could be significant.
Discrimination law protects employees or job applicants from discrimination because they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. However, in the year ending 31 March 2007, only 470 claims were brought for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, compared with 28,153 sex discrimination claims during the same period. It remains to be seen whether the relatively small number of claims is an indicator of a tolerant UK workforce or perhaps as is more likely, because of a perception that to raise such issues or bring such claims is tantamount to career suicide.