September 2023 saw the first sex discrimination claim about deadnaming succeed. An employment tribunal found that Miss AB, a trans woman, had faced direct discrimination from her employer, the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames Council. We discuss what happened in the case and why she was awarded £25,000.
As well as the discrimination, shortfalls with outdated employment policies were highlighted. We explore how HR can support transitioning employees and ensure the workplace doesn’t deadname them. Also, we look at what transitioning employees can do to prevent them from being deadnamed.
Accused of Throwing a ‘Hissing Fit’ With Years of Deadnaming
The problems began eight months before Miss AB’s transition in July 2020. During this period, the claimant explained her employer failed their duty of care as they didn’t provide support.
Shortly after her transition, Miss AB raised work-related concerns. Her superiors used derogatory language about her when discussing the matter and accused her of throwing a ‘hissing fit’. This led to her making an unofficial complaint, explaining she’d been singled out due to being a trans woman. Rather than dealing with her complaint, her manager demanded an apology.
Furthermore, despite informing the council of her transition, it took them two years to update her name across the council. This led to several instances of individuals deadnaming her. There was even an event where a Post-it on her locker had her dead name crossed out with her new name written. Miss AB explained how being misgendered and deadnamed made her feel degraded.
The outlined events severely impacted the claimant’s mental health, leading to time off work. As a result of her employer’s failings, she claimed to an employment tribunal regarding direct discrimination.
In the judgement, the employment tribunal ruled that Miss AB had experienced direct discrimination due to being treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. They explained that deadnaming her amounted to being treated less favourably. Also, they said gender reassignment was a protected characteristic, making this a case of sex discrimination. As a result, Miss AB was awarded £25,423, which included compensation for injury to her feelings and interest.
HR Tips to Support Trans Employees
Miss AB’s case highlighted shortfalls concerning employer support. The tribunal outlined that the council had failed to update policies in line with legislation, including the Equality Act 2010. Furthermore, they stated that the council had failed to train staff appropriately on the matter or provide adequate support for trans employees.
With these points in mind, it appears that HR departments should ensure:
- Their company’s policies are up-to-date with relevant legislation to ensure they’re complying with their legal obligations
- All employees, including managers, are provided appropriate training to ensure those transitioning are treated correctly
- Adequate support for trans employees is in place
Learning from the shortfalls highlighted in Miss AB’s claim will ensure the correct employer support is provided.
How to Prevent Deadnaming
As per the Cambridge Dictionary, deadnaming occurs when a transgender or non-binary person is called by the name they no longer use. This will usually be the name they were assigned at birth instead of their new post-transition name.
HR departments can take steps to ensure transitioning employees aren’t deadnamed. Examples of the steps they can take include:
- Communicating with the transitioning employee about how they would like to be known. This includes discussing if and how they would like the rest of the workplace to be informed. Such communication will ensure the trans individual feels support from the employer and help prevent them from being deadnamed.
- Updating any mention of the individual’s dead name. This could mean providing a new email or ID card and changing their name on company documents.
- Taking a zero-tolerance approach to offenders. Understandably, accidents may occur, but if employees intentionally or continually dead-name a transitioning employee, this should be dealt with.
Transitioning employees could also take steps to ensure they aren’t dead-named. For instance, they could tell their employer what name they want to go by and guarantee the workforce is updated. As a result, they may experience deadnaming less, as other employees refer to them by their preferred name.
Also, they could report any cases where they are deadnamed intentionally or continuously. The employer could be made aware of the offence with such a report. This should ensure they deal with the matter, meaning the employee is no longer dead-named.
If you have experienced something similar and don’t know what to do, contact Redmans Solicitors today. They are experts in employment law, with many years of experience, and could advise you on how to proceed.