Plot twist. Russian court rules… in favour of trans woman, says her firing was unlawful

Vic Parsons June 26, 2020
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Members and supporters of the LGBT community take part in a May Day rally in St Petersburg on May 1, 2015. (OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)

A trans woman who was fired in 2017 after she changed her legal gender has won her case against her employer in a Russian court.

Known only as Anna, this win against her employer is the final victory in a years-long legal fight.

A St Petersburg court awarded her 10,000 rubles ($144) in compensation for “moral damages” and 1.85m rubles ($26,500) in compensation for the paid work she lost as a result of being fired in 2017, according to Human Rights Watch.

Anna’s case began in 2015, when authorities in Russia refused to allow her to change the first name on her ID documents.

She began legal proceedings, which included an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, and in 2017 won her case – gaining legal gender recognition as a woman and new ID documents.

But then she was fired.

Anna had worked for 10 years as a quality control checker at a company that made plates used in the manufacturing process for confectionary wrappers.

In Russia, women are legally banned from certain jobs – a hangover from 1970s Soviet propaganda that said women needed to be “protected” from dangerous jobs.

Anna’s job was one of them, and when she legally changed gender her employer fired her.

She took this to court, arguing it was discrimination to have fired her and discrimination that women are prohibited from doing certain jobs in Russia.

Vladimir Putin’s government had passed a regulation in 2000 that barred women from working in 456 professions. Despite domestic lawsuits and criticism from the United Nation’s women’s rights experts, this regulation still stands today – although the list of jobs women are banned from has been shortened.

Russia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Protection now only lists 100 “restricted” professions for women, although this will not come into effect until January 2021.

Anna lost her first case against her employer, but then with the help of Russian LGBT+ rights group Vyhod she appealed to another court.

She lost this case, too, but in December 2018 a court body declared the earlier rulings void and said she could have a retrial.

It was this case she won, in April 2019.

Max Olenichev, legal adviser at Vyhod, said of the decision: “Every woman has the right to choose a profession, and the absolute prohibition on such a choice, established in Russia by a list of professions prohibited for women, is a manifestation of discrimination.”

While the list of restricted professions remains in place, the case also demonstrated that “transgender women who have suffered from its use can be protected in national courts”.


More: Discrimination, human rights watch, legal gender recognition, Russia, Vladimir Putin

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