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Friday, 21 October 2011

Belarus gay activist says British company fired him because he is gay

Alexander Poluyan picture
By Paul Canning

The Editor of the Belorussian website, activist Alexander Poluyan, says he was fired by the local office of British American Tobacco (BAT) because he is gay.

Poluyan says he was forced to write a resignation letter 11 October by the head of the company's communications department because he claimed that Poluyan had not done his duties. However Poluyan says that other employees told him it was because the department head had learned that he was gay and an activist.

In a statement, BAT said that he had previously worked for them as a contractor and was employed on a one-year contract and was on probation. They say they knew he was Editor of when he was hired.
"During his probation period, it became apparent that Alexander was under performing against the agreed expectations and requirements of the job. Feedback was given to him on a number of occasions by his line manager and the HR department, in line with the company performance management policy."

"Alexander was given fair and unbiased treatment during his employment with us and there were no incidents or suggestions of Alexander being treated differently or discriminated against because of his sexuality," they said.
The company says that there are openly gay staff working for them in Belarus.

Poluyan says he received no feedback on his performance and that few staff knew he was gay because although he did not conceal it he did not talk about it until asked.
"I understand that now, BAT will protect there [sic] name and say that they tolerant towards homosexuals - it's expected. I will not dispute the fact that in some countries towards homosexuals humane and tolerant, but the actions of some staff in the office in Belarus, shows the opposite," he said.

"Having 8-year working experience, I’ve never faced a similar problem. My colleagues and friends have always known and know that I’m a gay, I live with my guy and that I am engaged in LGBT-activity. This case shows real position of homosexuals in the country where even employees of the international company, widely declaring about nondiscrimination on any basis, can't accept a homosexual in the command. What should be said about conditions gays and lesbians are who work at public establishments?!" he said.

"Many people ask us what kind of homophobia we have in our country? What are the oppressions of gays and lesbians? Once again I felt this situation and I can share personal experience."
Discrimination at work against LGBT is legal is Belarus, where homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1994 and the state has a history of repressing LGBT organising. Gay Pride has just been banned again in the capital, Minsk.

According to the results of a survey conducted by in April 2011, 65.6% of respondents have thought of leaving Belarus because of homophobia. Many LGBT Belorussians have claimed asylum in Western Europe.

British American Tobacco is a FTSE 100 company headquartered in London. Brands include Camel and Lucky Strike although the company has diversified, particularly into financial services. The UK Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke is a former Director.
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