A transsexual who claimed she was hounded out of her job as a trucker after she began her transition from her former male gender has triumphed at her employment tribunal.
Vikki-Marie Gaynor, 37, from Wallasey in Wirral, is waiting to hear the exact sum of compensation she will be rewarded following her successful claims of sexual discrimination against Exel Europe, part of delivery giant DHL, and recruitment agency Blue Arrow.
The ex-soldier, who got her HGV licence through the Royal Corps of Transport, claims that previously friendly members of staff at the depot in Kirkby, Merseyside, began a campaign of harassment against her, including dumping her belongings and makeup in a toilet.
Employment judge Mr Homfray-Davies ruled that Blue Arrow did discriminate against Gaynor in the way it dealt with her two grievances and agreed that she was removed from her regular run by Exel/DHL in part because of her transition.
Gaynor told PinkNews.co.uk:
“I am absolutely delighted with the result.
“We got exactly what we wanted, which was for it to be recognised that Exel/DHL and Blue Arrow were both guilty of discrimination.
“The interesting thing is, both companies are global organisations which have stringent anti-discrimination policies in place.
“But these guidelines mean nothing if the employees who run the firms at lower levels dismiss the legislation and operate by their own discriminatory ideas.
“Blue Arrow admitted that they did not follow any statutory procedure for an individual complaining about discrimination, yet tried to justify this was not personal because they didn’t follow the procedure for any employees, regardless of who they are.”
The employment tribunal heard that Blue Arrow had condoned and failed to challenge the discriminatory behaviour of Exel/DHL, failed to support Gaynor when she informed them of the problem and failed to follow their own equal opportunities policy by not dealing with her grievances adequately.
It was also ruled that Exel/DHL did remove Gaynor from her usual run and allocated her runs whereby she was more likely to be “the butt of ribald comments”.
The company was also guilty of ignoring the discriminatory conduct of its staff towards Gaynor, and failed to support her in her complaints about those staff.
Having resigned from her position in March 2007, Gaynor has now set up a business offering schools and employers workshops and information about transexuality.
“I have lived and breathed this case for the past year and a half and I know the devastating effect it can have on someone’s life,” she told PinkNews.co.uk.
“I know that anyone who enters the process of transition is not doing so lightly and it’s a very difficult period, particularly at work.
“I want to make sure that there is more information about being a transgender out in the public sphere so that people are more aware not only of discrimination guidelines, but also of the day-to-day pleasantries when speaking to someone who is going through a transition.”
“There has been some encouraging interest in the Q A sessions that I run, and I recently held a training session with the local police force who felt it would be beneficial to their team.”
Although delighted with the result, Gaynor has experienced severe harassment from members of the public during the process of her case.
She has had her front door kicked down by three men who followed her home, has been shouted at in the street and has been assaulted twice.
Yet she remains positive about the future and is campaigning to change the complaints procedure and legislation for Bluearrow and Exel/DHL to prevent a similar situation in the future.
“The most important aim for me now is to raise awareness of this type of discrimination and ensure that it doesn’t happen to other people.
“I know for a fact that if it were not for my transition, I would still be working for the same company doing the same job and I’m thrilled that the tribunal recognised this.”
“Blue Arrow accepts the outcome of the employment tribunal’s ruling,” a company spokesman told the Daily Mail.
“We now consider the matter closed.
“Blue Arrow is an equal opportunities employer, committed to fair treatment for all.
“We believe that every employee has the right to work in an environment free from harassment, victimisation and bullying.
“We constantly review our anti-discrimination policies in order to ensure employees are treated with respect.”
TEXT OF THE TRIBUNAL JUDGMENT:
The judgment of the Tribunal is that:
1. The claimant had no right to the Llantarnum run.
2. She was removed from it by Exel/DHL, as a regular run, from 14 February 2007, in part because of her transition status. Blue Arrow did not aid or abet Exel/DHL’s discriminatory conduct.
3. The claims that Exel/DHL discriminated against the claimant in the allocation of runs post 14 February 2007, and that Exel/DHL and Blue Arrow failed to be mindful of her transition status in the allocation of runs post 20 February 2007, fail and are dismissed.
4. Exel/DHL did not discriminate against the claimant by failing to issue an edict/briefing/memo post an incident of discrimination by a driver on 1 February 2007.
5. Blue Arrow did discriminate against the claimant in the way it dealt with her two grievances.
6. Exel/DHL did not discriminate against the claimant by the way it dealt with the claimant’s grievances.
7. Exel/DHL did not discriminate against the claimant in any way in respect of the removal and subsequent loss of some of the claimant’s property from the cab of PO 56 BVW.
8. Any claims in respect of the incident of mocking on 1 February 2007 and the offensive gesture by a passing driver of Exel subsequent thereto were not pursued and are dismissed as withdrawn.
9. The claimant is entitled to a day’s pay, which was not quantified.
A person, (Blue Arrow or Exel/DHL), discriminates against another person, Ms Gaynor, in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of Part 11 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, if he treats Ms Gaynor less favourably than he treats or would treat other persons, and he does so on the ground that Ms Gaynor is undergoing gender re-assignment – section 2A Sex Discrimination Act 1975.
Section 42 (1) provides that “A person (Blue Arrow) who knowingly aids another person (Exel/DHL) to do an act made unlawful by this Act shall be treated for the purpose of this Act as himself doing an unlawful act of the like description.”
Thus, for example, for Blue Arrow to condone the removal of the claimant from the Llantarnum run on the ground of her transition would be aiding and abetting Exel/DHL’s unlawful act.
We also considered the burden of proof as set out in section 63A of the Act. “Where on the hearing of a complaint the complainant proves facts from which the tribunal could, apart from this section, conclude in the absence of an adequate explanation that the respondent- (a) has committed an act of discrimination against the complainant which is unlawful . . . or (b) is by virtue of section 41 or 42 (aiding or abetting) to be treated as having committed such an act of discrimination against the complainant, the tribunal shall uphold the complaint unless the respondent proves that he did not commit or, as the case may be, is not to be treated as having committed that act.”