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Transsexual Discrimination in the Workplace

Friday, 7 February 2014

The Equality Act 2010 has brought a much needed focus to discrimination in the workplace. Certain forms of discrimination such as sex and race discrimination have long been protected by specific pieces of legislation such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976.

In the last decade more has been done to stamp out harmful discrimination in all its forms culminating in the broadly constructed Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act protects against discrimination relating to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Transsexual discrimination has rarely been tested but late in 2013 a transsexual police officer brought a tribunal claim against the Essex Police force.

PC Emma Chapman Sues Essex Police

PC Emma Chapman underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1999 having been born male. At the time she was a police volunteer but she later became a full time police officer. In 2013 she took Essex Police to the employment tribunal alleging that a number of discriminatory incidents had taken place in relation to her gender reassignment.

The incidents she complained of related to her having to ‘out’ herself over the police radio system on three different occasions when the control room operator did not believe it was her. According to her allegations, on one of those occasions the operator questioned her identity on the basis that she had a male voice and she had to respond by explaining that she was transsexual. The radio channel was listened to by hundreds of other officers and staff.

PC Chapman brought her gender reassignment discrimination case on the basis that the incidents had created a working environment that was ‘intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive’ and that there had been a lack of understanding and support from the force.

The Employment Tribunal’s Findings

Despite the serious nature of the allegations, Essex Police contested PC Chapman’s view of the incidents, in particular the precise wording and tone of the radio communications.

The employment tribunal found in favour of the force and rejected PC Chapman’s allegations of transsexual discrimination and her claim for damages.

In its findings the tribunal praised Essex Police for its introduction of transgender awareness training and suggested that PC Chapman’s reaction to the incidents had been extreme. It also commented that PC Chapman had been ‘unreasonably prone to take offence’.


This case is important in that it has raised awareness of a less common form of discrimination in relation to gender reassignment. It also demonstrates the approach of the employment tribunal in dealing with discrimination issues where the individual’s subjective sensitivities must be viewed in the practical context of particular working environments.

For more information or advice on dealing with discrimination in the workplace, please contact Aneil Balgobin via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.

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