Transgender woman wins £9,000 from Debenhams in sex discrimination case

Sophie Gallagher
EPA-EFE

A transgender woman will receive a £9,000 payout in a settlement with Debenhams after pursuing a sex discrimination case against the brand.

Ava Moore from County Down, Northern Ireland, applied for a job as a temporary sales assistant in the run-up to Christmas 2018.

Ms Moore was invited for an interview and performed well, but did not get offered the job.

Ava Moore

The former hairdresser said she was formally notified she didn’t get the role, but then later received an anonymous email saying the reason why was because she was transgender.

The employer had been made aware of Ms Moore’s gender history when she had to disclose her birth certificate during the interview process.

Ms Moore said her “confidence was rocked” by the email and that she subsequently felt no matter how well-suited she was for the job, her gender was more important to the employer.

“I thought I had completed a good interview which had included interacting with customers on the sales floor. This job was exactly what I’d been looking for and I thought that I’d be really good at it.

“However, during the course of the interview I felt a change in the atmosphere after I provided my birth certificate which discloses my gender history and the fact that I am a transgender woman.”

The Equality Commission, which supported Ms Moore’s case, said: “A job should go to the person who does best at interview and in selection tests.

“The company confirmed that Ava performed well at interview and in interacting with customers – and she says she told them she was willing to work the hours required.

“The more open and inclusive the recruitment process, the more likely it is to avoid unlawful discrimination and increase the likelihood of getting the best and most qualified people for the job.”

Debenhams has not accepted liability for the case but has agreed to the payout.

In a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson for Debenhams said: “We have agreed a settlement on the basis of no liability on the part of Debenhams.

“We are an equal opportunities employer committed to promoting equality and diversity within the business and throughout the sector.

“Decisions on recruitment, training, promotion and employment conditions are based solely on personal competence and performance.”

Debenhams will be working with the Equality Commission to review its equal opportunities policies, practices and procedures.

The case was taken under the Sex Discrimination Order (1976), which makes it unlawful to discriminate against transgender people in Northern Ireland.