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Transgender woman in Philippines files complaint after being forced to leave female restroom

2 security guards at call center company charged for violating city ordinance which prohibits 'all discriminatory acts against homosexuals in the workplace'
Call center employee Mara La Torre
Image: YouTube

A transgender woman working at a call center company in Quezon City has filed a criminal complaint against two security guards for prohibiting her to use the company’s female restroom.

According to The Philippine Star, 22-year-old Mara La Torre, a call center agent, said that she was using the female bathroom at her workplace in Fairview, Quezon City when Anne May Pacheco, a security guard, asked her to leave as she is not allowed to use it since it is only for females.

When La Torre insisted that she was a woman, Pacheco said she was only following orders from her supervisor Mineleus Llegunas.

Pacheco and her supervisor, who are both employed by NC Lanting Security Specialty Agency and assigned to the call centre at the time, have been charged for violating Quezon City Ordinance No. SP-1309 S-2003, which prohibits ‘all discriminatory acts against homosexuals in the workplace, whether in hiring, treatment, promotion or dismissal, in both the government and private sector.’ 

The ordinance penalizes discrimination against homosexuals with a fine of up to P5,000 and up to six months in prison. It however does not mention discrimination against transgender people.

La Torre, who identifies as transgender woman, said the action of the security guards affected her health to the point that she had to reduce her water intake, and that it has affected her job performance. Her workplace has no unisex toilet that she could use.

'Sometimes I need to use the female restroom,' she said in Filipino. 'But because of the reasons I mentioned, the right side of my tummy is beginning to ache because I dare not urinate.'

She also alleged that she’s not also allowed to use the female sleeping quarters. She said, 'It is difficult as I need to sleep because sometimes I’m already in the office five hours before my shift. I’m assigned at night and it’s hard to get a ride at that time.'

La Torre’s said her employer Teleperformance had told her that an employee’s gender is determined solely based on that stated in his or her birth certificate.

The Star quoted La Torre’s lawyer Clara Rita Padilla as saying that her client is seeking justice through the Quezon City ordinance, the first passed in the Philippines protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people against discrimination in the workplace.

'All employers and employees in Quezon City should know about this ordinance to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,' she said. 'Mara is very courageous in standing up for her rights.'

Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, a human rights organization that promotes the dignity and equality of transgender people, has applauded La Torre for filing a complaint against her employer for discrimination based on her gender identity.

The Association of Transgender People of the Philippines said it backs La Torre's complaint and will monitor the case closely. Dindi Tan, political, legal, and interorganizational head for the group, told GMA News that the case is "a good test to see if this ordinance has teeth."

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