Four gay cops in Sydney, Australia, have won an employment discrimination case, successfully demonstrating they were targeted for “random” drug tests because of their sexuality.
The group was placed under surveillance for six months in 2015 and required to undergo supposedly random drug tests because a colleague suspected they might have taken illegal substances.
All the drug tests came back negative, leading to the officers launching their discrimination case.
They told the tribunal there was “homophobic culture” at Newtown Local Area Command, where they were based. One told the tribunal when testifying in late 2017 that “poofter”, “homo” and “gay as AIDS” were terms he had overheard.
The men’s troubles began when former Commander Simon Hardman decided to investigate them in May 2015. He says another colleague of theirs tested positive for ecstasy and speed (amphetamine) through a random hair-sample test.
As he was friends with the group and they often frequented the same Sydney gay bar together, Hardman recommended to management that they should all be investigated.
He even said some of the men had “loose morals”, three of them were “notorious for their promiscuity,” and that, “drug use is thought to be fundamental in such indiscriminate sexual encounters.”
He also questioned the fact they took extended leave to attend Sydney Mardi Gras.
Hardman conceded to superiors that he had an “absence of evidence” of drug taking but that “grave concern” led to him reporting his suspicions.
Hardman is now head of Security for the University of Sydney. He did not testify at the tribunal.
Today, the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) agreed with the men that they were “presumed to be engaged in drug use by reason of their homosexuality.” It ruled Hardman was “motivated, consciously or unconsciously, to make the complaints … by reason of their homosexuality.”
Although it says the drug tests were motivated by homophobic bias, the tribunal said there was insufficient evidence to back up claims of a culture of bullying and harassment towards the officers because they’re gay – saying reports of words and terms being used were “isolated incidents over a number of years and, whilst not to be condoned, it cannot in our view amount to unlawful discrimination.”
NSW Police have yet to have issued a response to the ruling.
A lawyer representing the men said they will now seek compensation for “significant financial and emotional damages.” The case returns to court December, 10.