Jaguar Land Rover has apologised to a former worker who identified as non-binary after an employment tribunal ruled they had been the victim of harassment, direct discrimination and victimisation.
The ruling was handed down by Judge Hughes on September 14 following the case of Ms Rose Taylor v Jaguar Land Rover heard in Birmingham in August and September.
Ms Taylor was a longstanding engineer working at a Jaguar Land Rover plant.
In 2017, Ms Taylor identified as gender fluid/non-binary, from which time she usually dressed in women’s clothing.
The employment tribunal hearing heard that Ms Taylor was subsequently subjected to insults and abusive jokes at work.
She also suffered difficulties with the use of toilet facilities and managerial support.
Ms Taylor brought claims of harassment, direct discrimination and victimisation on the ground of gender reassignment.
During the hearing Jaguar Land Rover argued Ms Taylor, as gender fluid/non-binary, did not fall within the definition of gender reassignment under section 7 of the Equality Act 2010.
The judgement has been hailed as a landmark ruling which protects people who are gender fluid/non-binary ending what had been a ‘grey area’ as far as the legislation was concerned.
The Equality Act protects people from discrimination on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
The tribunal upheld Ms Taylor’s claims of harassment, direct discrimination and victimisation.
It noted that the question of whether a gender fluid/non-binary person fell within section 7, of the Equality Act 2010 was a novel point of law.
During submissions there was reference to comments made during the Equality Bill parliamentary debates in 2009.
It was noted that the Solicitor-General referred to a gender “spectrum” and that gender reassignment “concerns a personal journey and moving a gender identity away from birth sex”.
The tribunal held it was “clear… that gender is a spectrum” and that it is “beyond any doubt” that the claimant fell within the definition of section 7 of the Equality Act 2010.
The implication of the judgment is that other complex gender identities may also fall within the definition of gender reassignment under section 7 of the Act where individuals propose to undergo a process of moving their gender identity away from their birth gender.
What the claimant’s barrister said
Barrister Robin Moira White, of Old Square Chambers, who represented the claimant, said: “This is an important judgment, albeit at first instance, recognising for the first time the rights of a small number of individuals with complex gender identities.
“Once again the courts have shown themselves willing to stand up for the rights of individuals in a manner which demands respect and admiration.
“I see no reason why this ruling should not extend to other complex gender identities such as a-gender and gender queer.”
The judgement said: “The claimant has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.”
Also that the claimant’s allegations of harassment because of gender reassignment were “well-founded” and that they formed “part of a continuing course of harassment”.
The judgement added: “The claimant’s allegation of victimisation in respect of the respondent’s failure to permit her to retract her resignation is well-founded.
“The respondent’s statutory defence to the above allegations fails, and is totally without merit.
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“The claimant was constructively unfairly dismissed.”
The judgement went on to speak about damages, which will be awarded at a remedy hearing set for October 2.
It said: “This employment tribunal considers it appropriate to award aggravated damages in this case because of the egregious way the claimant was treated and because of the insensitive stance taken by the respondent in defending these proceedings.
“We are also minded to consider making recommendations in order to alleviate the claimant’s injury to feelings by ensuring the respondent takes positive steps to avoid this situation arising again.”
Jaguar Land Rover’s response
Jaguar Land Rover apologised to Ms Taylor following the judgement.
Dave Williams, executive director HR, said: “On behalf of Jaguar Land Rover, I would like to apologise to Ms Taylor for the experiences she had during her employment with us.
“We continue to strive to improve in this area and we respect the outcome of the case.
“Jaguar Land Rover does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We are committed to creating an environment where everyone can flourish, where our employees feel listened to, understood, supported and valued equally.
“We continue to work with our leaders, employees and employee-led diversity networks to foster a diverse, inclusive and gender-balanced culture that is representative of the society in which we live.”
The charity Stonewall’s response
A statement from the LGBT+ charity Stonewall said the judgement was “a milestone” and provided clarity.
It said: “This employment tribunal ruling is a milestone in recognising the rights of non-binary and gender fluid people to be protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
“Until now, it’s not been clear whether non-binary people were protected by anti-discrimination legislation, so this employment tribunal judgment will be key in supporting future judicial decisions.
“The tribunal held up the important principle that “gender is a spectrum”, broadening the scope of who could be covered by the Equality Act to those whose gender identities are “complex”, non-binary, or not the same as they were assigned at birth.
“This judgment creates the potential for even more non-binary and gender-diverse people to be protected from harassment and discrimination in all areas of their lives, which is a vital step towards creating a world where all LGBT+ people can thrive as their authentic selves.”