A trans person and a gay man claim they were turned away from a cleaning job at a council office in southern England because the bosses were ‘expecting women’.
Now they are considering action against the employer – Morgan Sindall Plc, a major UK construction and contract group. The firm however, denies wrongdoing, suggesting an alternative explanation for the alleged discrimination.
On Tuesday (2 April), faced with two individuals turning up for work for a basic cleaning job – one identifying as non-binary transgender, the other male and gay – Morgan Sindall’s manager’s response, it is claimed, was to turn the pair away with the short, sharp explanation that he was ‘expecting women’.
C (name withheld to protect identity), the trans individual, tells us: ‘I was booked over the phone by Tom Bendall of Rullion [employment agency] for four days work cleaning the newly built council offices in Worthing, West Sussex. They had no cleaners for this job so even asked if I could provide any other workers. My housemate came with me.
‘At no point was my gender questioned during this call and I asserted my name as C. When we turned up for work at 8am [on Tuesday] I reported to the site manager, Steve.
C goes on: ‘Steve looked us up and down and said he was “expecting women” and needed to make a call. We waited. When he came back he told us it was “not gonna happen” and again that he was “expecting women”.
‘I had cancelled another job offer to take this better-paid position, and I just feel that it smells a little like gender discrimination to me. My friend identifies as gay. I myself identify as transgender.’
While Rullion are named in connection with the above incident, they do not appear to be in any way responsible for the events alleged. According to an official spokesman for that company, Rullion Ltd carried out the initial recruitment in accordance with a brief prepared by their client, Morgan Sindall, one of the contractors responsible for work at the offices of Adur and Worthing Councils.
When more individuals turned up for work than the client had been expecting, the decision as to who to take on lay wholly with the contractor – and had nothing to do with Rullion Ltd.
They add: ‘We do not discriminate against individuals on any grounds and would always advise our clients appropriately if we were aware that they were making decisions based on discriminatory grounds.’
An official statement from Adur and Worthing Councils makes clear their own concerns.
They write to tell us: ‘The responsibility for this matter lies with our contractor Morgan Sindall. We would expect all our contractors and their sub-contractors to be working within the law, including the provisions contained in the Equality Act 2010.’
While they would not be drawn on what they will now do, the two individuals at the center of this dispute have said they wish to take the matter further. Next steps, according to C, are likely to include a formal complaint to the council and meeting and discussion with council representatives responsible for diversity issues.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Morgan Sindall gave their official reaction.
Denying any allegation of discrimination, they tell us: ‘Morgan Sindall required cleaners to work at the Adur and Worthing Council Offices from Tuesday 2 April. A recruitment agency was contacted and requested to supply the three particular female cleaners who had previously undertaken excellent work on another Morgan Sindall project in the area.
‘On the day in question, a number of individuals approached the site advising they had been sent by the agency. Two were taken on and others who subsequently turned up were politely advised they were not required due to the three previously used cleaners being expected. These three cleaners arrived for work on Wednesday 3 April.’