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Deadnaming in the workplace

To ‘deadname’ is to refer to a transgender person by their pre-transition name post-gender reassignment.  

An Employment Tribunal in Croydon recently considered a case of transgender discrimination through deadnaming.

Background

The claimant gave her employer eight months’ notice of her intention to transition in 2020.  Despite this, her employer failed to update her name on her pension records, door pass, complaints system, vehicle pass and staff directory. Her employer did nothing to rectify this for over two and a half years. 

As a result, the claimant was referred to by her deadname on phone calls and misgendered by a third party, which she found to be demeaning and degrading. This further ‘outed’ her with third parties questioning the name change.  

A post-it note was placed on her locker, with her deadname crossed out and her post-transition name written for all to see. Again, the employer took no action to rectify this until 2022. On raising this with her manager, along with ‘singling her out’ and being treated in a ‘demeaning manner’, the manager demanded an apology from the claimant. 

The employer’s policies predated the Equality Act 2010 and had not been updated. They accepted that they did not handle the claimant’s transition well. 

Decision

The Employment Tribunal criticised the employer for failing to update its policies and not providing adequate training to its 4,500-strong workforce, including a Human Resources department of around 60 people. 

“We are surprised at such an omission by a local authority and we find its policies and practices at the time of the claimant transitioning to have been woefully inadequate with both a failure to provide guidance to staff undergoing transition and to team managers.”

“We understand why the claimant felt badly let down by her employer. She was left to navigate a complex set of respondent systems with no support or even signposting from HR as to how to do this. …despite this level of resource there was nothing appropriate in place.”

The Employment Tribunal found that 10 of the allegations were founded and that the claimant had, therefore, been subject to less favourable treatment due to her protected characteristic of gender reassignment.  The acts of discrimination were serious enough to fall within the middle ‘Vento’ band.

The claimant was awarded £21,000 for injury to feelings, plus interest.  

Comment

As an employer, you might want to consider:

  • Having up-to-date policies which are fit for purpose 
  • Training managers and employees adequately 
  • Ensuring that training is updated periodically  
  • Taking a proactive approach in updating records to record the personal data of employees accurately and
  • Ensuring a designated person is assigned to deal with private issues so employees do not need to ‘out’ themselves to a committee of people 

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