A transgender woman recently won a case against a Channel Islands ferry company for both direct and indirect discrimination.
The ferry’s toilets were labelled “gents” and “ladies” and when the woman spoke to the company to ask which she should use, a member of staff advised her to use the disabled toilets. The woman then brought a case against the ferry company. This highlights growing issues around transgender identities and how easy it is for discrimination to arise in a work setting.
A Question of Identity and Awareness
Ignorance is no excuse. If employees display a lack of awareness in how to correctly address a transgender person, then there is the likelihood that it will impact on their employer.
Gender is all about identity and identity can be a sensitive issue. Insensitivity has consequences
Businesses have a responsibility to address employee awareness issues to minimise the potential for discrimination. In the ferry company case, the employee’s response was ruled as direct discrimination, whereas the signs on the toilets amounted to indirect discrimination.
There may be times where it seems as though everyone is being treated the same, but in fact this treatment may have a different, and worse, effect on some people because of who they are. This can amount to indirect discrimination.
With regard to signs, inclusivity experts recommend the use of symbols as opposed to words to overcome issues of any sort of indirect discrimination.
No one wants to feel excluded, nor does a business want to find itself found guilty of unlawful discriminatory practices. This transgender discrimination case is a landmark ruling. It also demonstrates the importance for businesses to review their policies, practices and procedures to avoid both direct and indirect discrimination. Where there is any doubt, the best advice is to seek professional HR guidance.