Retailers could face legal action by staff and customers if they continue to display lads’ mags and other titles with pornographic front covers, a group of lawyers have warned.

In a letter published in The Guardian, 14 equalities lawyers said displaying such publications in a store could constitute sexual discrimination and harassment under the Equality Act 2010.

A campaign by UK Feminista and Object is calling on high street retailers to immediately remove lads’ mags from their shelves.

“Each one of these stores is a workplace. Displaying these publications in workplaces, and/or requiring staff to handle them in the course of their jobs, may amount to sex discrimination and sexual harassment contrary to the Equality Act 2010,” the lawyers wrote.

“Similarly, exposing customers to these publications in the process of displaying them is capable of giving rise to breaches of the Equality Act.”

They said there were examples of staff successfully suing employers for exposing them to pornographic material at work.

“Such exposure is actionable where it violates the dignity of individual employees or customers, or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. We therefore call on such retailers to urgently heed the call to Lose the Lads’ Mags,” the lawyers added.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said there was a long-standing industry code of practice on the responsible selling of lads’ mags that has been reissued in the past year.

“Retailers do not want any customer, especially parents being uncomfortable when using their store. Our advice to any individuals that have concerns about the way a product is merchandised or sold in a retail outlet is to make the retailer aware of their concerns,” said public affairs director Shane Brennan.

“The Lose the Lads’ Mags campaigners have not shown retailers the legal advice, so we want to see it. This isn’t something for retailers to decide, and there’s no evidence that employees feel uncomfortable about this issue, although we’re very alive about exposing these magazines to children.”