Transgender discrimination and the law
There is a large amount of legislation in England and Wales that protects individuals’ rights not to be discriminated against. If you feel you are being unlawfully discriminated against for any particular reason you should contact a local solicitor for specific legal advice.
Types of discrimination
Discrimination usually takes one of four forms:
- Direct discrimination – This is when two or more people are in the same circumstances and yet one person is treated differently from the other(s).
- Indirect discrimination – This is when in theory the rules are the same for everybody but because of a set of circumstances unique to you, you are put in a worse position.
- Victimisation - This is when you are discriminated against as a result of something you have done, for example when you have complained about somebody at work.
- Harassment – This is when you are subjected to unwanted offensive behaviour.
How the law protects you
You will be protected by the law in all of the above circumstances if the discrimination takes place at your work, in some form of public service (including health and education), or as a consumer. The degree to which the law will compensate you for the discrimination will depend on the particular circumstances in each case, with specific reference to how easy it would be for the individual or firm that was discriminating to adapt their actions and the seriousness of the discrimination.
Transgender discrimination occurs where somebody is discriminated against on account of them being a transsexual (somebody who identifies themselves as having a different gender from that they were born with).
Discrimination against somebody on the grounds that they are transsexual is unlawful and individuals will be protected in the same way as somebody who is discriminated against because of their age or race. This has been further emphasised by the Equality Act 2010 which has enshrined rights against transgender discrimination.
There are some cases in which discrimination can be justified under the law; however, these usually only refer to what has been known as ‘positive discrimination’ (known in the US as affirmative action). This is when a group of people who have been discriminated against in the past or who, figures show, are still being discriminated against are given preferential treatment in terms of employment opportunities should two candidates for a job be similar. This is an attempt to ensure the make up of the workforce of a particular company reflects that of society. This type of justification is almost certainly not available for transgender discrimination.
When transgender discrimination is indirect in the workplace and without any malicious intent the law will look at what actions a reasonable employer should take. Whilst it is still unlawful to indirectly discriminate against somebody on transgender grounds, any employment tribunal is likely to look at practical factors such as the size of a firm and what they could reasonably do to avoid such discrimination.
If you believe you are being discriminated against on the grounds of your sexuality or transgender then you should contact a solicitor for legal advice. Many solicitors will offer fixed-fee interviews to ensure costs are minimised.