Sex change employee asked for dismissal, says manager

2010-07-20 12:54

A woman who was allegedly fired after undergoing a sex change operation had asked to be dismissed, her manager testified on today.

Chris de Wet, Gauteng branch manager of steel distributor Bohler Uddeholm, told the Johannesburg Labour Court that Christine Ehlers, previously known as Chris, expressed interest in working on a freelance contract as a sales executive at the company.

This followed a fallout with her fellow employees allegedly after she had started “a sexual reassignment procedure” in September 2008.

De Wet said the chairperson of the grievance hearing suggested giving her a freelance contract to resolve a bitter standoff in the department.

The relationship between Ehlers and a colleague Natasha Elves broke down after Elves allegedly sent Ehlers an SMS reading: “I will never have respect for a lowclass wanna B woman!”

Ehlers was apparently interested in the freelance contract but in a meeting with De Wet said her attorney told her she must first be dismissed from the company.

De Wet told the court he had never had a problem with Ehlers’ work or her sexual orientation.

He said: “If the sex change was an issue I would never have wanted to have her working as a freelancer as she would still be representing the company.”

Ehlers sat in the court wearing a woman’s jacket, earrings and feminine jewellery.

She went for a sex change on the advice of sexologist Dr Bernard Levinson.

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