A Dublin barber has been ordered to pay €5,000 to a transgender man who was discriminated against having been refused “a short back and sides”.
Lee McLoughlin told the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) that when it was his turn to have his hair cut at Charlie’s Barbers in Nutgrove Shopping Centre, south Dublin on September 24 2016, the barber, mistakenly believing he was a woman, replied: “I don’t cut ladies’ hair”.
When McLoughlin told the barber that he was a transgender man, he alleges the barber shook his head and stated, “I am sorry, we can’t cut ladies’ hair. It’s a contract that we have with another hairdresser around the corner, so if we cut a woman’s hair we will be fined”.
This happened on a busy day in the barbers and there were a number of other men waiting in the queue, Lee had waited 25 minutes for his turn and he said that this all happened in front of a number of other customers.
Lee said this caused huge embarrassment and distress to him and he left the premises “in shock”.
Mr McLoughlin claimed that he was discriminated against on the grounds of gender under the Equal Status Act.
This claim was upheld by the WRC and the adjudication officer in the case Gerard McMahon order Paula Smith of Charlie’s Barbers to pay €5,000 to Mr McLoughlin.
Mr McMahon said: “I conclude that the complainant was treated differently because he was transgender when he was refused a haircut by the respondent. This amounts to discrimination on the grounds of gender.”
Mr McLoughlin said that he had to avail of emergency counselling following the incident.
Following the hearing, McLoughlin said that the case “was not about the money”.
He explained that he took this case as a point of principle and to set a precedent for those who might find themselves in a similar situation in the future.
Charlie’s Barbers detailed in its defence that the barber in question had “no training in cutting ladies’ hair and had never done so before”.
The barber in question had also been instructed that the business lease prohibited them from cutting women’s hair.
The barbers added that they have now put a policy in place to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
Mr McLoughlin, a civil servant working in healthcare regulation, said that he only came out to his friends, family and colleagues in May 2016.
He said that since coming out at transgender “I feel so lucky. I have had such a great reaction from everyone. I have never felt happier or more confident than I do now. I couldn’t be happy until I became my authentic self”.
He said the discrimination he encountered at the barbers “was an isolated incident for me and has been my first and only negative experience as a transgender male”.
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