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Transsexual wins tribunal payout off Irish company

A transsexual has won a €35,000 payout after her boss ordered her to switch from female to male identity to meet clients.

Louise Hannon, who worked for First Direct Logistics, told management her true identity in 2006 but, after changing her name by deed poll in March 2007, she was repeatedly discriminated against.

A boss told her to work for another three months as a male and then she could begin to come to work dressed as a woman, but would have to change back to a man when meeting clients.

Ms Hannon, a business development manager, said she twice met business contacts as a man and was also asked not to use the female toilets.

The Equality Tribunal was told she was asked to work from home for a month until a new office opened where she would work from.

The position never materialised and when Ms Hannon asked to return, she was initially told there was no room for her and then told her presence created a bad atmosphere.

Equality Tribunal chairperson Angela Kerins said the decision to find in Ms Hannon's favour and award €35,422 was groundbreaking.

"Transsexual people are born into a society which is not structured to cater for their own identity," she said.

"The journey undertaken by transsexual people to recognise their own identity, as being different from their assigned identity, involves a process and decision-making that is both courageous and beyond the capacity of many to fully appreciate.

"With the diagnostic progress made in recent decades to recognise this disorder, it is fair and essential that society assists transsexual people to make this journey by removing as many obstacles for discrimination as possible."

The tribunal also heard that Ms Hannon was losing clients after being frozen out of the office and subsequently put under repeated pressure to drum up new business.

At the end of July 2007, Ms Hannon decided that she had no alternative but to leave her employment.

First Choice Logistics claimed that Ms Hannon's productivity reduced dramatically in early 2007.

Management claimed that Ms Hannon was depressed and unhappy, and failed to make phone calls to generate new business despite their efforts to accommodate her.

Ms Hannon, who had a self-employed role in the company for five years up to January 2007 before taking a full-time role, was found to have suffered discrimination and constructive dismissal.

The Equality Officer who investigated the case stated that transsexualism is a recognised medical condition treated using hormone therapy, in some cases surgery and "real-life experience" such as living in the other sex continuously.

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