A Johannesburg man claims that he was verbally abused by a homophobic Nedbank employee because of his sexual orientation.
Pharmacist Neil Heath-Hartley told Mambaonline that the incident took place in June last year when he contacted the bank’s credit card division.
He claims that while speaking to a call centre agent named Craig he was repeatedly mocked by being called ‘ma’am’.
It was, however, when he referred to his husband of five years, Marius, in the conversation that “everything snowballed”.
“[The call centre agent] said, ‘how can a man be married to another man,’ and ‘it’s against God’s will,’ and he started preaching to me,” claims Neil.
“I asked to speak to a manager which he in turn said no. I started shouting at him and out of frustration put the phone down in his ear.”
Neil called Nedbank customer service and laid a complaint against the man. A few days later he was contacted by another employee who apologised to him for the call centre agent’s behaviour.
“However, I felt that I was humiliated too much and I contacted the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and decided to take the case further,” says Neil.
The SAHRC agreed to investigate a discrimination complaint against the bank on his behalf and has attempted to mediate between the two parties.
Neil says in his written complaint that he was “ridiculed and humiliated” and that his right to equality and human dignity was violated by the call center agent.
In a letter to Nedbank, the SAHRC wrote that, “as a part of the LGBTI community, the complainant forms part of a vulnerable group, which has suffered, and continues to suffer, unfair discrimination in various areas of their lives.
“The complainant and his husband face daily criticism from various sectors of society. As one of the major banks, the complainant did not expect to face such criticism and judgment from bank staff.”
Neil has asked that the bank pay him R100,000 in compensation, that the SAHRC provide sensitisation training to its call center staff and that Nedbank takes part in the next Pretoria Pride event “to show that Nedbank supports the LGBT community”.
Neil, his husband and the bank have now agreed to participate in mediation at the SAHRC offices in Johannesburg on Wednesday to see if the matter can be settled.
The men say that they hoped that the call center agent would be at the meeting but they have been informed that he will not attend. “We don’t want him to get fired,” explains Marius. “We feel that he must learn from his mistakes.”