Gay restaurant worker and his husband are awarded £120,000 compensation over two-year homophobic bullying ordeal of slurs that included bosses calling him a ‘waitress’

  • Tim Jeurninck and his partner Marco Scatena were ‘bullied for months on end’
  • After complaining Mr Jeurninck was warned by boss he was from Mafia family 
  • After resigning the couple sued eatery for sexual orientation discrimination

A gay restaurant worker and his husband have won more than £120,000 after their homophobic boss referred to him as a ‘waitress’.

Tim Jeurninck and partner Marco Scatena were ‘bullied for months on end’ with sustained abuse including ‘constant slurs’, an employment tribunal heard.

When one director at the Italian restaurant where they worked complained about a dirty glass, he said of the gay community: ‘I thought you people knew how to clean better.’

When Mr Jeurninck complained, he was warned by his boss that he was from a Mafia family and suggested he could have him killed.

Tim Jeurninck and partner Marco Scatena were ‘bullied for months on end’ by restaurant staff. File image of restaurant table

Restaurant manager Mr Scatena – who part-owned the business – was also sent ‘offensive’ messages from his fellow directors – which contained threats of violence and unfounded accusations that he had been stealing from the till.

After both resigning, the couple sued London eatery Piatto for sexual orientation discrimination.

The panel ruled in their favour, saying the directors had tried to force Mr Scatena out of the business – with ‘more than enough evidence’ to suggest it was because he was gay.

Mr Jeurninck – who worked as a waiter – and Mr Scatena were awarded £41,732 and £83,102 in compensation respectively.

The tribunal, held in south London, heard that director Vincenzo Cugno Garrano had previously spoken with Mr Scatena about the two Italian nationals opening a restaurant together.

Mr Scatena subsequently invested ‘all of his personal money’ as well as a bank loan and a loan from his husband’s parents, making him a 30 per cent shareholder in the restaurant which opened in January 2018 on Battersea Park Rd.

Despite his shares as one of the four directors, the panel heard that Mr Scatena never received a dividend payment.

Mr Jeurninck and Mr Scatena, who married in 2017, began working at Piatto in January 2018, but between June and September the couple were ‘on the receiving end’ of homophobic ‘name-calling’.

In June 2018, Fabio Corona – another director – ‘screamed’ for Mr Jeurninck, calling him a ‘waitress’ and laughing while doing so.

The panel accepted that when Mr Jeurninck protested at being called a waitress, one of Mr Corona’s friends proceeded to call him a ‘f*****g f*****t’ in Italian and said ‘oh your waitress is very rude’.

The panel heard Mr Cugno Garrano continued to call Mr Jeurninck ‘any kind of derogatory term’ in Italian to describe his sexual orientation.

In July 2018, Mr Jeurninck said the ‘threats, insinuations and mental abuse’ continued as Mr Cugno Garrano ‘screamed’ at him upon telling him kitchen staff were looking for him.

He then called Mr Jeurninck ‘frocio’ – Italian for ‘f*****t’ – before ‘screaming an entire monologue’ at him – threatening him by saying his family in Italy ‘were the Mafia’ and ‘could harm’ his husband’s family before making a hand gesture ‘indicating that he would be killed’.

The panel heard that in July, Mr Cugno Garrano came upstairs with a cleaned glass and said: ‘I thought you people (gay people) knew how to clean better.’

When Mr Jeurninck protested, he replied ‘I am a real man unlike you. I won’t have a little f*****t talk to me like this’, and spat at him.

A colleague told the tribunal she had heard Mr Cugno Garrano ‘exclusively’ talking in Italian to exclude Mr Jeurninck – who is Dutch – and ‘constantly’ referred to him as a ‘f*****t’ and other homophobic ‘slurs’.

During a directors’ meeting without Mr Scatena, they called Mr Jeurninck to bring them drinks, referring to him again as a ‘waitress’.

When he asked them not to call him that, they laughed at him, calling him a ‘f*****g f*****t,’ the tribunal heard.

In September 2018, Mr Cugno Garrano sent Mr Scatena a WhatsApp conversation from a group of all the directors excluding him.

The tribunal ruled Mr Scatena was ‘understandably very upset’ at the ‘offensive’ messages which contained ‘threats of violence and homophobic statements’.

He was accused of being ‘stupid and lazy’ and of stealing money from the till – which the tribunal said there was no proof of.

Director Alessandro Spina sent a message saying ‘as soon as we find a cover, we need to speed up the process to kick him out’ and suggested setting up a ‘nice trap’ by putting money in the till.

Mr Scatena told the tribunal the directors’ messages caused a panic and ‘severe anxiety’ attack resulting in him going on sick leave – for which he wasn’t paid.

In December 2018, Mr Jeurninck resigned, claiming he hadn’t been paid his wages since March 2018.

On 25 April 2019, Mr Scatena also resigned, saying he’d been ‘bullied for months on end’.

Employment Judge Alexander Green ruled that as well as being wrongfully dismissed the couple had been directly discriminated against because of their sexuality.

On, Mr Scatena’s claim, Judge Green said: ‘We believe there was a sustained campaign that was motivated by homophobic behaviour to force him out of the business.

‘There are two reasons why Piatta were trying to force him out. Either it was because they did not like him or it was because he was a gay man.

‘We have seen more than enough evidence to support the latter in terms of offensive and sustained homophobic behaviour. It would be perverse to find otherwise.

‘Mr Jeurninck and Mr Scatena have established they suffered from unwanted conduct as a result of their sexual orientation, which had the purpose of violating their dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

‘They were quite clearly deeply offended and threatened by the behaviour. They have established that they were harassed because of their sexual orientation.’

At the remedy hearing, Mr Jeurninck was awarded £41,732.30 which includes £28,000 for injury to feelings caused by discrimination and Mr Scatena was awarded £83,102.66 – with £36,000 for injury to feelings.

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