Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Newry woman wins sex discrimination case against Debenhams

A transgender woman from Newry has been awarded £9,000 in a sex discrimination case against Debenhams.

Ava Moore had applied for a job as a temporary sales assistant in the company’s Newry store ahead of Christmas 2018 but was turned down for the role despite performing well at interview.

After being formally notified that she was unsuccessful, Ms Moore received an anonymous email alleging she did not get the job because she was a transgender woman.  She said her  “confidence was rocked” by this news, which prompted her to take a case of sex discrimination against the firm, supported by the Equality Commission.

“This job was exactly what I’d been looking for and I thought that I’d be really good at it,” she said.  “However, during the course of the interview, I felt a change in the atmosphere after I provided my birth certificate which discloses my gender history and the fact that I am a transgender woman.

“I felt that it didn’t matter how hard I tried, or how well I performed at interview, it just seemed to me that my gender was more important than being able to do the job.

Newry woman Ava Moore settled a sex discrimination case against Debenhams. Photo Credit: Equality Commission.

“What does my gender have to do with my ability to make sales?” 

The case was settled without Debenhams admitting liability.

Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, which supported Ms Moore in her case against Debenhams, said the issues were simple.

“A job should go to the person who does best at interview and in selection tests,” he said.

“The company confirmed that Ava performed well at interview and in interacting with customers -and she says she told them she was willing to work the hours required.  The more open and inclusive the recruitment process, the more likely it is to avoid unlawful discrimination and increase the likelihood of getting the best and most qualified people for the job.”

Mr Wardlow said he welcomed a commitment by Debenhams to liaise with the Commission to review its equal opportunities policies, practices and procedures.

In a statement, Debenhams said it “agreed a settlement on the basis of no liability on the part of Debenhams”.

“We are an equal opportunities employer, committed to promoting equality and diversity within the business and throughout the sector.  Decisions on recruitment, training, promotion, and employment conditions are based solely on personal competence and performance.”