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Trans NHS worker wins discrimination case over underwear comment

Trans NHS worker wins discrimination case after being ’embarrassed’ by her boss confronting her over ‘concerns’ from staff that she was ‘naked from the waist down’ in shared changing rooms

  • Her manager asked her if she wore underwear at work or ‘in general’
  • Came after ‘concern’ she was ‘naked from the waist down’ in changing room 
  • The transgender woman worked at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield  
  • She also found an offensive note in her locker and overheard colleagues  
  • Abuse came after staff were told she would be using female changing rooms 

A transgender NHS worker has won a discrimination case against the health service after being left ’embarrassed’ when her boss confronted her over concerns that she was ‘naked from the waist down’ in shared changing rooms.

The transgender woman was asked by her manager at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield whether she wore underwear at work or ‘if she wore it in general’.

The questioning came because there had been ‘concern’ among staff that the transgender woman was ‘naked from the waist down’ in the communal changing room and she had made a ‘lighthearted’ comment about being so hot at work she took her pants off. 

The transgender woman was also left ‘crying and shaking’ at work after she was told in a note left in her locker to ‘get out you tranny freak’.

The abuse came after staff at the hospital were informed by a memo that the transgender woman would be joining and using female changing rooms.  

The woman, who was transitioning at the time, also overheard female colleagues saying ‘I am sick to death of this bloke with a d**k pretending to be a woman’.

Co-workers even said ‘that thing may rape me’, an employment tribunal heard.

Now, the woman, whose identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons, has successfully sued Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Yorkshire, for gender reassignment discrimination.

A transgender NHS worker has won a gender reassignment discrimination case against the health service after colleagues told her ‘get out you tranny freak’. The transgender woman was left ‘crying and shaking’ at work at an Northern General Hospital in Sheffield after she discovered the offensive note in her locker

The employment tribunal in Leeds, Yorkshire, heard she started work in a non-medical job in the summer of 2020, based within a unit at Northern General Hospital, which is part of the trust.

Because she had been transitioning, had been out of work, and suffered emotional issues, the woman was anxious about joining.

What do the terms ‘cisgender’ and ‘gender critical’ mean?  


Cis – or cisgender – is a term used mainly by the LGBT community to describe a person whose gender identity corresponds with their biological sex.

It was coined in 1994 and began appearing in dictionaries in 2015, when the term started becoming more widely used. 

Now, although it is still unfamiliar to many people, the term is frequently used in the context of news and debates about transgender issues.

Gender critical

Gender critical beliefs refer to the view that someone’s sex is biological and immutable and cannot be conflated with someone’s gender identity.  

It means that those who hold gender critical views regard transgender women as men and transgender men as women. 

Last year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) ruled that gender critical views are considered a philosophical belief and are therefore protected under the Equality Act. 

The ruling came after an employment tribunal appeal by Maya Forstater, who was sacked from her job after claiming people cannot changer their biological sex. 

The trust – which gives staff equality and diversity training – encouraged workers to be respectful to her, however soon after joining she suffered abuse.

In July 2020 she was left in tears over an incident.

A tribunal report said: ‘There is no dispute that at about 7am she found a note that had been posted into her locker in the ladies’ changing room that said “get out you tranny freak”.’

At lunchtime the same day, she suffered ‘deeply offensive and unacceptable’ abuse again while she was in a cubicle in the changing room and overheard two female colleagues speaking outside the cubicle.

One said: ‘I am sick to death of this bloke with a dick pretending to be a woman, who doesn’t even dress like a girl and has facial hair, that thing may rape me and we can drive it out of the department and maybe find a suitable leper colony for it.’

The other said ‘I agree but we need to do something but what can we do when management are sucking up to that thing’ and the other replied ‘we will find a way’.

In August 2020, the trans woman again found a note in her locker saying ‘get out tranny’.

The authors of the notes and the women who made the offensive comments were never identified despite an investigation, however the trust admitted all three incidents happened.

In June 2021, the transgender woman was left ’embarrassed’ when she was questioned by her manager about whether she wore underwear.

Concluding, Employment Judge Sarah-Jane Davies ruled a female manager quizzed her because she is transgender.

Judge Davies said: ‘A concern about the woman’s state of undress in the changing rooms was likely to be connected with the fact that she is a transgender woman.

‘This was a communal changing room with a shower cubicle. It did not seem to the Tribunal likely that there would have been a concern about a cisgender woman in a state of undress while changing in such a changing room.

‘The Tribunal therefore concluded that [the manager] asked the questions because of a concern that the woman as a transgender woman might be in a state of undress in the female changing room.

‘That was because of gender reassignment. Mrs Hawkshaw would not have asked the questions of a cisgender woman.’

The woman won a claim of gender reassignment discrimination related to the underwear questions.

The transgender woman also brought a series of other claims of discrimination, over how her managers and the trust handled her complaints and absence record, and also alleging that they didn’t support her.

However, all these claims failed because the tribunal ruled the trust did support her and dealt with her complaints appropriately.

The failed claims included harassment related to sex, victimisation, disability discrimination, and a separate gender reassignment discrimination claim.

The woman, who has a university degree, resigned from the trust last year.

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