A transgender woman has won a case of both direct and indirect discrimination against Condor Ferries after a staff member advised her to “use the disabled loos”. We probably already knew that following a case against the Post Office some years ago.
However what was interesting is that the company (which sails between the Channel Islands and Poole, Portsmouth and France) was ordered to remove the words ‘ladies’ and ‘gents’ from its toilets and to update its equality and diversity policy and guidance to staff. One can see how easily this might cross over into the Employment Tribunal in the UK.
The Claimant, a taxi driver Erin Bisson, from Jersey, first lodged a complaint in November 2015, after asking which toilets she should use. The Condor employee’s advice was to use the disabled toilets – Erin claimed this amounted to direct discrimination, while the use of words rather than symbols on toilets amounted to indirect discrimination.
The Jersey tribunal agreed that both counts of indirect and direct discrimination were made out and the Company admitted to an unintentional act of discrimination.
The company has since worked with the claimant to draw up a list of measures to remove the possibility of inadvertent discrimination, and said it had implemented an all-staff diversity training programme for the first time in March.
I am aware of individuals who have transitioned who ‘test’ companies by seeing how they are treated. I’ve talked with one person who then uses the evidence to contact the Board and to go in to talk to them about their duties and how to improve. This case has a similar ring to it.
It undoubtedly highlights that employers need to make sure customer facing staff have received adequate training and that a lack of awareness is no defence to discrimination.
It is worth considering the Government Equalities Office guidance on recruiting and retaining transgender staff when considering these issues.