We have read news of a settlement for discrimination by a transgender woman in a Northern Ireland case. The department store Debenhams has paid £9,000 to a woman who complained about transgender discrimination. This happened under the Northern Ireland equivalent of the Equality Act.

Ava Moore, who was born male, applied for the position of temporary sales assistant for the Christmas season at her local branch. She performed well at interview and proved her ability by selling to a customer on the sales floor. Despite this, the interviewer’s mood changed when she disclosed her birth certificate (revealing her birth name and gender).

A few days later, Ms Moore received a rejection but also an anonymous email informing her that the reason was because she was transgender. She complained to The Equality Commission. Debenhams has settled, without admitting liability.

The settlement has, unusually, become public, whereas normally, a settlement for discrimination is kept confidential. We infer that she refused to accept a confidentiality clause and Debenhams had no alternative but to accept.

Despite this (slightly larger than average) settlement for discrimination, a spokesperson for Debenhams said:

We are an equal opportunities employer, committed to promoting equality and diversity within the business and throughout the sector. Decisions on recruitment, training, promotion, and employment conditions are based solely on personal competence and performance.”

Nevertheless, they admitted that Ms Moore performed well at interview and in interacting with customers, and that she was willing to work the required hours.

Ms Moore said that the rejection “knocked her confidence” and that the job was “perfect” for her.

Our view

To avoid tribunal claims, jobs should go to the candidate who have performed best in the recruitment process. Companies with policies and training tend to avoid making this kind of mistake.

By David Liu

Image used under CC courtesy of Tnarik Innael