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30th August 2023

Tribunal Rules On Gender Specific Slurs

red bus in London

In the recent case of Miss Amanda Fischer v London United Busways Limited [2300846/2021], the tribunal heard claims relating to the use of slurs in the workplace and whether they were gender specific, which were pleaded as gender reassignment discrimination.

Miss Amanda Fischer (the Claimant) was engaged by the Respondent (London United Busways Limited) as an agency bus driver from November 2020 until her termination on 16 January 2021.

The Claimant alleged that she was treated less favourably as a result of her protected characteristic of gender reassignment. She claimed that there were 3 acts of discrimination:

  1. A colleague drove the bus millimetres from the Claimant whilst she was walking across the yard.
  2. Calling her a “wanker”.
  3. Terminating her engagement.

In the tribunal’s judgement, they dismissed the first and third allegations against the Respondent finding that the Claimant was not treated less favourably because of her protected characteristic of gender reassignment. The second allegation was not upheld because the tribunal determined that the incident did not take place.

The employment tribunal held that the swear word “wanker” was not gender-neutral and that the panel’s experience of the term was that it applied to men and that there are different derogatory words used to describe women. The tribunal went on to confirm that if they found that the term “wanker” had been used against the Claimant, then she would have a prima facie case of gender reassignment discrimination.

For employers, equality and diversity training is essential to educate their employees on professional conduct in the workplace. Whilst in this case, the claim did not succeed, it was not because the term was not held to be offensive, but rather there was a lack of direct evidence from the Claimant or the second-hand account from a witness.

Subsequently, from an employee’s point of view, it is important to make a record of incidents that occur within the workplace. These records could be in the form of notes and emails of a grievance which confirm when and what happened. This assists any investigation or decision being conducted as there is a paper trail of the issues being relied on.

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