'Andy or Mandie' | Trans worker loses discrimination case over pronouns confusion

Trans worker loses discrimination case over pronouns confusion

In a recent employment tribunal case, a trans worker's discrimination claim against Central Bedfordshire Council was dismissed.

The tribunal found that the claimant, Mandie Monroe, had created confusion surrounding her preferred name and pronouns during the hiring process, leading to the rejection of her claim.

Monroe joined Central Bedfordshire Council in April of the previous year as a housing officer. The confusion emerged when Monroe, who initially applied using the name Andy Mason, disclosed her transgender identity during the interview process. The prospective employers then asked her about her preferred pronouns.

According to the tribunal findings, Monroe provided conflicting statements about her preferred name and pronouns. During the interview, she stated: "I am old school, I don’t really focus on those pronouns. You can call me Andy," as reported by the tribunal case findings.

However, once in the job, she consistently signed off her emails as Mandie or M.

The confusion continued when Monroe was asked about her preferred name during the creation of a work rota. Despite her assurance that any name would be acceptable, her behaviour and attire during the discussion led colleagues to believe that she preferred to be named Mandie on the rota.

On a subsequent occasion, during a video call, Monroe was asked to clarify her preferred name. She then stated that she would be content to be referred to as Andy in the workplace and Mandie outside of work.

The tribunal heard that Monroe had a falling out with her bosses over other work-related matters, leading her to stop working for the council by May 18 of the same year. Notably, Monroe did not raise concerns about trans harassment during her employment but launched the discrimination claim after leaving the council.

Despite Monroe's claims, Employment Judge Stephen Bedeau dismissed the discrimination claim. He emphasised the credibility and consistency of the respondent's witnesses, stating that they provided reliable accounts supported by relevant documents. The judge noted that it was Monroe's choice to use the name Andy at work and that the confusion was a situation created by the claimant.

Trans rights within the workplace

While in this case the judge ruled in favour of the employer, businesses must be aware of the need to take steps in order to ensure that transgender individuals in the workplace feel safe and comfortable. Transgender people are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, be that direct harassment, institutionalised prejudices, or simply a lack of understanding of their needs.

According to PHR Solicitors, the Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and this includes individuals whose gender identity does not match the one they were assigned at birth.

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Whilst the law protects transgender individuals, the terms used can cause legal complications. An example is “transsexual”, which is used to denote trans people, but the term evolved to be a separate definition under the ‘trans’ umbrella. The law also does not mention ‘non-binary’ people, a group rapidly growing in representation in society.

However, there has been a recent first instance Tribunal Judgement which deemed that a non-binary/gender fluid person was covered by the Equality Act. It is clear that employers should take every step necessary to create a safe working environment for everyone.

The decision in the case raised by Monroe underscores the need for consistency in both how workplaces address individuals based on their gender preferences, but also the need for clear guidance on preferences on the part of workers.

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