Hannon v. First Direct Logistics, Equality Tribunal of Ireland (29 March 2011)
Louise Hannon filed a complaint alleging discrimination and constructive dismissal by her employer after she began transitioning to a female identity.
Louise Hannon was employed as a business development manager. When she informed her employer that she had been diagnosed with gender identity disorder and would begin using a feminine name and living as a woman, her employer responded with a series of measures to limit her exposure to external clients, including asking her to deal with clients over the phone, not changing her email account to her feminine name, and then asking her to only work from home. Management repeatedly asked her to continue in her male identity to ensure that staff and clients were comfortable. Ultimately Hannon resigned.
Whether the respondent had discriminated against the complainant on the basis of her gender and disability.
Employment Equality Acts, Section 85A
P v. S and Cornwall County Council, European Court of Justice, 1996 (holding that “sex” in the EU Equal Treatment Directive protects transgender persons from discrimination).
Reasoning of the Court
A person diagnosed with gender identity disorder does not need the employer’s permission to seek and begin treatment, and treatment includes living continuously in the new sex. The plan adopted by the respondent to phase out “John” in favor of “Louise” was a unilateral approach. Although it was appropriate to inform her colleagues about the transition, it was “purely a management matter to deal with staff concerns.” Staff concerns should not have been a burden for the complainant.
The Tribunal found it “entirely inappropriate” for the respondent to ask the complainant to continue reverting to her birth identity. Requesting that the complainant switch between a male and female identity whenever the respondent felt the need for it constituted “direct discrimination on gender and disability grounds.” Nor did the respondent have any genuine business need for the complainant to work from home. The request to work from home was only because the respondent did not want to deal with the complainant presenting as female. This also constituted discrimination.
The Tribunal stated: “While it is clear that the complainant did not, because of her disability, require special assistance, treatment or facilities per se, she did require a workplace that recognized her right to dress and be identified as a female.”
The Court found that the complainant had established prima facie cases of discriminatory treatment and discriminatory dismissal on gender and disability grounds and awarded her compensation in the form of 79 weeks of salary.
Hannon v. First Direct Logistics, Equality Tribunal of Ireland (29 March 2011), (full text of judgment, PDF)