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Lack of support throughout employee’s transition was discriminatory

Discrimination
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

The Employment Tribunal (ET), in the case of Miss AB v Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, had to consider whether the respondent’s inaction amounted to discrimination.

The claimant gave notice to the respondent that she was intending to transition some eight months beforehand. But when she felt that she was not receiving any support she raised concerns. In response the claimant was sent an email where she was informed that she was being given a reasonable management instruction to retract her comments and apologise. Alternatively, she could substantiate her concerns informally or raise a complaint under the grievance process. It concluded by stating that if she decided not to follow this management instruction, action under the disciplinary process would be commenced.

Initially the claimant wanted her concerns to be looked at informally but whilst she was off on a period of sick leave, she raised a formal grievance. Whilst the respondent delayed in dealing with it, the grievance was eventually heard. 

But it took two years following the claimant’s transition for the respondent to update their directories, email systems and to get a door pass sorted which allowed her access to the office and to operate the printers. When the claimant did eventually gain access to her locker she found that it had a sign on it which had her birth name crossed out and her post-transition name written on. This was in full view of everyone.

When trying to obtain a vehicle pass the claimant had to contact third party agents herself on two occasions. She was questioned about her name change and was misgendered on both telephone calls.

The respondent accepted that it did not have a policy in place which aligned with the Equality Act 2010. The ET stated that the respondent’s policies and procedures were woefully inadequate. The respondent failed to provide any guidance to staff undergoing transition and to team managers. They also failed to provide any equality training to staff.

When the claimant raised concerns about the lack of support, these should have been proactively investigated. Instead, the respondent concluded that the allegations had no merit in them, and no concern was expressed for the claimant’s wellbeing.

An investigation should have taken place when the sign was found on the claimant’s locker. A proactive approach should also have been taken to change the respondent’s systems following discussions with the employee who should have been given the option of a new email account and for records to be opened in her name, or to have existing accounts and records amended. This should not have taken two years. Support should also have been given regarding contacting external service providers.

The claimant was successful in her discrimination claim and was awarded £21,00 in compensation and £4,423 was also awarded in interest.

This case highlights the importance for employers to meet with the employee throughout their transitioning journey to provide timely support, and to ensure that the employee’s name and photograph is updated at the appropriate time throughout the organisation.

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