A Napier caregiver has accused his former employer of doing nothing after a co-worker told his clients he was a "dirty homosexual".
Grant White began working for Health Care New Zealand in 2007, but resigned in April after the damage done to his client relationships became unbearable.
The 49-year-old, who is gay, said he always kept his private life quiet, but after being asked, told another staff member he was gay and in a happy relationship.
About six months later he discovered a female co-worker had been telling his clients about his sexuality and relationship, describing him as a "dirty homosexual".
White said some of his clients were mentally disabled and one had hit him in the stomach after finding out.
Another elderly man had started acting strangely and when asked what was wrong had said he had been told some disturbing things.
"You don't expect people to embrace everything, but this was particularly vicious."
White said he went to the district manager to complain, but nothing was done, so he left for another job.
His lawyer, Piers Hunt, said the two parties had attended mediation, but Health Care NZ had refused to settle with White and had declined a second round of mediation.
The matter would now be taken to the Employment Relations Authority, which would make a decision.
"In this instance there was a particular woman who was speaking badly about Grant and his sexuality and it put him in a situation where a particular client didn't want him.
"It was a continuous bad-mouthing by this particular person and this was reported by Grant with his immediate supervisor and he didn't do anything about it."
Health Care NZ communications and marketing manager Lauree Rickard said that the company would not answer questions regarding White's situation, citing confidentiality issues.
Victoria University School of Management associate professor Deborah Jones, who has researched sexuality and gender in the workplace, said there was still little known about the experiences of gay and lesbian employees in New Zealand.
The introduction of legislation in the 1980s and 1990s outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and changing social attitudes meant problems had diminished. But there was still likely to be some workers and employers who treated gay people unfairly, especially in smaller towns and small businesses.
A situation where clients of a company acted adversely to a person's sexual orientation were difficult, as it could not be classified as discrimination, she said.
"Your colleagues and managers have really got to have your back in that situation."
- The Dominion Post