Victory for sex change worker

2010-08-13 12:49

Johannesburg - Christine Ehlers, a transgender woman who claimed she was unfairly dismissed from her company, is to be reinstated to her job, the Labour Court in Johannesburg ruled on Friday.

Judge Ellem Francis ruled that Ehlers must be reinstated to the same position she had at the time of her dismissal by her employers, Bohler Udderholm.

She will be given back pay and benefits for the time which she was dismissed.

The company will also be required to apologise to her within one week.

Unfair discrimination

The court ordered Bohler Udderholm to take steps to prevent future discrimination.

"[The company] must take steps to prevent the same unfair discrimination or any similar practice occurring in respect of other employees, and to report to this court within three months from the date of this order on the steps so taken," said Francis in his judgment.

The court also awarded costs to Ehlers.

Despite these victories, Francis dismissed Ehlers's claims for damages and compensation.

Ehlers was dismissed from Bohler Udderholm, a steel company, in Isando, Johannesburg in 2009, where she worked as a sales representative. She claims the company unfairly discriminated against her by dismissing her.

Ehlers had laid a grievance against a co-worker, Natasha Alves, 22, after she received a text message from Alves reading: "I will never have respect for a low class wannaB woman", after Ehlers parked Alves in at an office party and refused to move her car.

Witnesses testified that Ehlers said: "That little bitch can wait." Ehlers gave testimony denying she had said it.


Ehlers laid a second grievance against her superior, Fatima Lage, after an argument in which she accused Lage of calling her "immoral" after having a sex change.

The company said it had dealt with Ehlers's grievances.

Ehlers was dismissed after rejecting an offer to take up a freelance sales position.

Ehlers was not in court for the judgment.