HSBC gay lawsuit rattles inclusion initiatives

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HSBC is in the dock over claims that it wrongly dismissed a gay employee. But Stonewall, the campaigning organisation for gays, lesbians and bisexuals, insists banks are proactively embracing the gay community.

"It's very encouraging: banks have joined our Diversity Champions programme," says Stonewall spokesman Andy Forrest. "Many feel they want to do more than the bare minimum required by the new employment regulations."

HSBC, ABN Amro, Credit Suisse, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and UBS are members of Stonewall's programme, which encourages participants to share techniques for recruiting and retaining gay, lesbian and bisexual employees.

In January this year Credit Suisse ran a seminar for other organisations on the importance of recruiting and retaining lesbian, gay and bisexual graduates.

With the exception of ABN Amro, these banks also rank in Stonewall's recently released list of the top 100 employers for lesbian and gay staff in 2006. Credit Suisse and JPMorgan top the bill as the most gay-friendly banks, ranking joint 9th.

Plaudits from Stonewall are no guarantee of immunity from litigation, however. Despite ranking as the 24th most gay- and lesbian-friendly company to work for in the UK, HSBC has fallen foul of Peter Lewis, its gay former global head of equity trading. Lewis claims that he was dismissed on the grounds of his sexuality and is suing the bank for 5m in a case that is due to start tomorrow.

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