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Marland v. P&O Ferries

The following is the press release after a landmark Employment tribunal in the UK where a trans woman successfully sued for constructive dismissal against her former employer following an extensive campaign of discrimination, harassment and subsequent victimisation.

Official press release

A transsexual woman, formerly employed by P&O Ferries, has been awarded £64,862 compensation by a Southampton employment tribunal after it found that she had been constructively dismissed.

Drusilla Marland, 48, of Bristol, worked as a repairperson on the Pride of Bilbao from October 2002 until October 2004. During this time, she suffered verbal and physical harassment from the engine room crew.

The tribunal heard how remarks were made to her such as “We’re all men here,” “If he’s got balls, he’s a gentleman,” and “When God made man it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” She was constantly addressed incorrectly, and referred to as “He, she, it, whatever.”

When a pornographic calendar was introduced to the engine control room, she was subjected to offensive comparisons with the pictures. Chief engineer Steffan Robb commented, “It’s a sort of training manual for you.” When she requested that the calendar be removed, she was told not to make an issue of it. Finally, in August 2003, she found written on the calendar “Dru,” with an arrow pointing to a model’s vulva. When the engine room crew was assembled for tea break, she took the calendar down, said that she found it unacceptably offensive, and ripped it up. Among others who shouted at her, Gary Howard, the RMT union representative, said “You are going to get done…. not if, but when”. Although the incident was witnessed by both ratings and officers no action was taken against Howard. The pornographic calendar was replaced with a similar one, and Marland was sent to Coventry by several crew members.

In June 2004 Marland asked Steffan Robb to implement guidelines for appropriate behaviour with transsexual colleagues, pointing out that similar guidelines had been implemented on a ship in Dover when an officer had transitioned. Robb commented “But they are an officer,” and refused the request.

In September 2004, Marland was tripped up by Ged Pollard, a motorman with a history of hostility to her. She reported the incident to her superior officer, but he took no action. Finally, after making a written report, and ten days after the assault, she was seen by the senior chief engineer, Martin Sonnen. He told her that he wanted to drop the matter in case it became “messy”, and accused her of “camping it up”. Shortly after, she left the ship and collapsed with what her GP diagnosed as “work related stress”.

An investigation subsequently undertaken by Sandra Ray, P&O HR officer, was judged by the Tribunal to be “flawed, perfunctory and superficial”:

  • She interviewed only those members of the crew implicated in the grievance, and none cited as witnesses
  • Her finding that Marland’s treatment “was not to the standard I would have expected” was deemed “so inadequate as to amount to an insult”
  • She provided no explanation or grounds for her finding that the Chief Engineers and the Senior Chief Engineer were supportive of Marland. The tribunal judged that Robb’s conduct in particular was “wholly reprehensible”
  • Her claim that Marland’s own behaviour was inappropriate was unsupported by any evidence

The Tribunal criticised P&O’s senior management, particularly in the case of Peter Ambrose, P&O’s HR Manager, for their failure to put in place adequate management instructions and guidelines with regard to employees undergoing gender reassignment. Ambrose’s decision to allow the Captain and Chief Engineers to deal with matters, without their having received any instruction or guidance, was judged by the Tribunal to be a serious managerial misjudgement.

See also

Article originally written for T-Vox by Jennifer Kirk.