The employment appeal tribunal (EAT) has upheld a decision that a lawyer suffered from unlawful discrimination based on his sexual orientation at a City firm.

Lee Bennett’s claim of discrimination in the workplace was based around comments referring to his “batty boy mate” discovered in a case file at the law firm Bivonas where he was working at the time.

The comments were found on a handwritten note in a three-page memorandum inside a client’s file being reviewed by Mr Bennett and another lawyer.

According to the tribunal ruling, the wording of the note which inferred that Mr Bennett was handing his work over to another man because he was also gay was a “professional slur of the upmost gravity”.

The EAT found that no heterosexual member of staff have been treated in the same way as Mr Bennett and the law firm was not able to provide a justification for treating him differently to other employees.

While there are no definitive figures available, the government estimates that between five and seven per cent of the UK population are gay, lesbian or bisexual.

According to the EAT, the law firm’s investigation of the grievance after the claim was filed was “seriously defective”, as there was no evidence of a properly conducted investigatory process.

Mr Bennett’s defence against the appeal was funded by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who welcomed the final ruling.

“Homophobia will not be tolerated in the workplace or anywhere else,” said John Wadham, group director legal of the EHRC. “We funded Mr Bennett’s defence and this win has set a precedent for discrimination law.”

In a statement the Bivonas said that Mr Bennett was no longer working with the law firm and that the incident took place two years ago.

It added: “We have learned from this experience and have taken the appropriate measures in the light of the tribunal’s observations.”