An employment appeal tribunal has ruled that City firm Bivonas discriminated against one of its lawyers on the basis of sexual orientation.

Lee Bennett’s discrimination claim focused on a memo from one of the firm’s partners which falsely implied that he instructed only gay barristers and should be sacked.

Judges this week ruled the original finding of an employment tribunal last year was correct and dismissed the firm’s appeal.

After lodging a grievance, the tribunal heard Bennett, a barrister on £82,500 a year, said the firm tried to intimidate him into withdrawing his claim.

It found no evidence that heterosexual men had been treated in the same way as Bennett for being gay. Nor could the firm provide justification for treating him differently to other employees. It was considered that the content of the memo was a ‘professional slur of the utmost gravity’ and that other people would have been insulted if had been about them.

The handwritten memo, found in a client file in April 2010, which had been written in 2008, contained homophobic remarks.

John Wadham, group director legal of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which funded Bennett’s case, said: ‘Homophobia will not be tolerated in the workplace or anywhere else. We funded Mr Bennett’s defence and this win has set a precedent for discrimination law.’

In a statement, the firm said Bennett is now working elsewhere and that the events complained of took place almost 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.’