A female security guard has won a £2,000 payout for sexual harassment after being repeatedly addressed as ‘Mr’ – including in court papers.
Ms Shah’s colleagues at Morrisons supermarket in Crawley presumed she was male and commonly misgendered her.
Ms Shah worked at the supermarket in 2018-19 while being employed by Cordant Security. She was TUPE’d over to Total Security Services in April 2019.
Total Security Services admitted that an administrative error had caused it to call Ms Shah “Mr” in its witness statement to the court.
At a hearing heard over two days in August, the tribunal judge, Omar Khalil, said these errors were “very surprising”.
Ms Shah, from Croydon, Surrey, told the tribunal that being addressed as a man by her colleagues, despite being a woman, had led to her feeling “extremely upset”, reducing her to tears on occasion.
The misgendering was not only verbal; Ms Shah told the tribunal she was referred to at least five times in writing as a man. It was also a frequent error in telephone conversations.
One man apologised to her for making the mistake – but then continued to call her “Mr”, Ms Shah told the tribunal.
The London employment tribunal concluded that the employer should have made more of an effort to “avoid making assumptions” about its employees, although it did accept the explanation that the administrative error was the root cause.
Employment judge Khali said: “Miss Shah was referred to as Mr on several occasions in writing and verbally. Very surprisingly, the error was even present in two separate paragraphs in [the operation manager’s] statement and in [the HR representative’s] witness statement.
“That the [company] operates in a male-dominated sector would suggest that even more attention ought to be paid to avoid discriminatory assumptions.”
The judge said he found it reasonable for Miss Shah to be offended by the continued misgendering: “She referred to the increase in her anxiety and stress, that she found this extremely upsetting and that she did cry on a few occasions,” he said.
The claim of harassment was well founded under section 26 of the Equality Act 2010 the tribunal decided, and £2,000 was awarded to Ms Shah for injury to feelings.
A separate claim over unauthorised deductions from wages that was made over travel expenses from Ms Shah’s home in Croydon was rejected by the tribunal.
Ms Shah was represented by Peninsula senior litigation consultant Mr Howson.