Gay man loses case claiming wrongful dismissal

SINGAPORE — A former Robinsons employee, who came into the media spotlight after he sought a court declaration that workplace discrimination against gays was unconstitutional, yesterday exhausted his legal avenues for what he claimed was wrongful dismissal by his former employer.

The highest court of the land upheld a High Court ruling on the case last December and dismissed Mr Lawrence Bernard Wee Kim San’s bid to claim an unspecified amount in damages for constructive dismissal, ruling that his claim was without basis. Mr Wee, 40, was also ordered to pay S$20,000 in legal costs.

The suit arose after the former manager at Robinsons department store quit his job in August 2012.

Although he was given four months’ salary in lieu of notice — the terms of his contract only stipulated a payment of two months’ salary in lieu of notice — as well as cash for his unconsumed annual leave, Mr Wee claimed that it was a case of constructive dismissal as his former boss had harassed him into leaving the job because he did not agree with his homosexuality.

Constructive dismissal occurs when an employer makes life so difficult that an employee is, in effect, forced to resign.

Four months after his resignation, Mr Wee filed for damages against his employer.

However, Robinsons denied any bias, unfair treatment or persecution by anyone at the store, or that Mr Wee faced difficulties or threats when he wanted to leave the company.

While this civil suit was ongoing, Mr Wee sought a declaration from the court last August that Article 12 of Singapore’s Constitution, which provides for the equal protection of the law, prohibits workplace discrimination of homosexual men.

A High Court assistant registrar struck out the case after finding that it was without merit.

Mr Wee filed an appeal against this decision, but withdrew it last month.

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