“The hybrid”, “the indefinite” or “the travelo” are three of the nicknames that Luisa Rus, a 33-year-old transgender woman, repeatedly received at her job, as several witnesses recounted. These insults have served to challenge his dismissal, which was communicated to him five days before undergoing sex reassignment surgery.
On the morning of Thursday, August 26, Luisa Rus thought that her new life was beginning. It was her last week of work as a promoter in the Samsung space of a department store in Plaza de Callao, in Madrid, before a few days of vacation that she was going to use to undergo double sex reassignment surgery. She had squared the administrative procedures and the two years of hormonal treatment so that, upon her return, her real name could already be read on her national identity document, finally and with all its consequences: Luisa. 2021 was going to be a great fall, pandemic or not.
Five months later, another store worker who has shared three years of work with Luisa, still remembers with surprise the day that Vexter Outsourcing, from the Randstad group, a company that provides the human team to the technology company in this center, fired her . “I did not understand anything when he told me, it did not enter my head. She is a charming girl, always helping and as far as I know, a very good saleswoman”, she says. Another worker speaks in the same terms: “It sounded strange to me, yes, in my work with her the previous months it has always been a good experience.” The journalist identifies herself, and the atmosphere is tense. This newspaper has learned that both employees were called to the offices the day after these conversations and that an email has been sent to Randstad with their statements.
A store manager, who was also questioned, reported not knowing anything about the dismissal. “It must be something internal, we don’t know anything here,” he said. The three claim to be unaware of the reasons for the end of Luisa’s contract.
This newspaper has contacted the staffing company, which reports not having “certainty of any incident, complaint or claim in advance, regarding the treatment received or dispensed by workers.” They add that the company respects “the rights of each and every one of the people who work in the company, complies with current regulations and faithfully follows compliance with human rights.” This newspaper has repeatedly tried to obtain the version of the Korean company that owns the store, without response.
Letter of dismissal
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“You told me that a promoter’s job is to sell, and I did.” Luisa defended herself by signing the non-conformity of the dismissal letter. From Randstad they confirmed that sales were not the cause of the termination of the contract. He felt the need to ask since the document in which he was notified in writing of the end of the employment relationship does not refer to any evidence of a decrease in work performance. They referred him to negative reports from his superior, RB, the store manager, which they did not elaborate on. In the notification they limit themselves to naming article 54 of the Workers’ Statute, which admits as a cause for dismissal “the continuous and voluntary decrease in normal or agreed work performance.”
She asked them to check the sales indicators: “You have the data, I am the one who has sold the most on Black Friday and in December”. The conversation, which is recorded, ends with a promise of investigation of the case by the staff team, and the acknowledgment that they have qualitative and non-objective assessments regarding his case. Hence, they directly offered him compensation for unfair dismissal.
In the days that followed, Luisa remembered that she had been worried for a long time. “I talked about it with my colleagues, I didn’t understand how it was always the last in valuations with those sales figures,” she explains now. “My monthly reports had always been positive, until the entrance of the store manager RB Everything changed there”. Soon, he received a call from a former boss who had left the company a few months ago. “He had found out what had happened to me and called me to tell me,” she says. According to the story of this former boss, R. B used to refer to Luisa, when she was not there, as “the indefinite”, the “uncle-aunt”, “hybrid” or “travelo”, adding that “he doesn’t know what it is”, and that the rest laughed at him thanks, himself included. “He asked me for forgiveness, because he once entered the game so as not to feel displaced,” continues Luisa. He encouraged him to file a complaint, although he said he did not want to testify in a potential trial.
On September 1, Luisa underwent the planned operations. “Going into the operating room knowing that you don’t have a job, and that you have to pay a loan because it’s your dream…”, he says. Public health finances some interventions for gender change: breast and throat surgeries and vaginoplasty, but not others such as facial feminization and laser hair removal. Luisa had applied for a loan months ago to meet these expenses and also to become independent, and her store managers knew it. “I imagined myself in another scenario, although I would continue to help financially at home. I saw myself in October already free in the world, saying: Here I am!, and I found the opposite. I have spent many nights of anxiety, of not sleeping, of not wanting to live, of wanting to get you out of the way.
Offer to close the case
His family encouraged him to continue. “If you have to go to trial, go,” they told him. The lawyer Jennifer Sifert accepted the case and filed a lawsuit against Vexter Outsourcing and Samsung Electronics Iberia for violation of fundamental rights before the Social Courts of Madrid, whose trial will be held next Friday, January 21. “Labor law is a market,” explains the lawyer. “They have called me to offer me an improvement of about 1,500 euros on the compensation that corresponds to him.” But Luisa has rejected him. He wants discrimination to be recognized and also to give visibility to his case so that it does not happen to anyone else. “Since this girl will want money, we offer you up to 6,000 euros”, they transferred to Siffert, trying to close the judicial process from the temporary hiring company. It is something habitual in the cases of denunciation by null dismissal. “I’m not looking for them to give me 100,000 euros: I’m looking for it to be known, and for justice to be done,” Rus defends.
What hurts her the most is not the actions of the person responsible, but that her colleagues did not defend her, or that they celebrated the jokes behind her back. David Fernández, another former employee of the Samsung center with whom this newspaper has been able to speak, has recognized him and, unlike the previous one, he is willing to testify on the 21st. He belonged to the technical service and entered and left the area of offices regularly. “When Luisa went to do some business, when she left, you could hear laughter, comments from those in charge,” she says.
Fernández refers to the same insults as the former boss who encouraged Luisa to litigate. And he adds in a telephone conversation that what caught his attention the most was “the contemptuous treatment” of the store manager with Luisa. “With a tone that I have never heard towards another person, but with her yes: I would not call it disgusting but I would call it derogatory on the doorbell,” he explains. “I told Luisa that I didn’t like her talking to her like that.” And he continues: “It was one of the best sellers and the treatment was excellent, very close with the clients: it was charming, very soft and sweet”. The lawyer will request to be able to include her testimony in the trial.
What happened is not limited to the alleged mistreatment of this person in charge. Since, at the beginning of 2019, she explained her gender reassignment process to her bosses, it took almost nine months in human resources to stop calling him Luis in the statements of corporate communications, and to process the permission so that he could use the female restrooms and locker rooms. In the audio communication of the dismissal, you can still hear those responsible for personnel referring to her up to twice in the masculine.
In the argumentation of the complaint, the lawyer has included that Luisa’s dismissal has caused her to have a diagnosed and documented serious depression. It was Pablo Vitry, a friend of the young woman, who took her by the hand to see a therapist. They have known each other for 14 years, when they were both studying software development. software and college applications. “I knew her as Luis. We played soccer, we spent the afternoons laughing out loud, even though we didn’t have a penny. Now it’s like an amoeba,” he says. Luisa does not want to take antidepressants, and prefers psychological care: the hormonal process already forces her to take many pills. “I don’t want to add more things to the backpack,” he explains.
Christmas at home has been complicated. Dulce Marín, his mother, concentrates the family suffering. “That after so much time in which she wanted to be a woman, and now when she could already be enjoying it, she continues to suffer, it is very painful for all of us”, she affirms.
Diversity plans in companies, a pending issue
The trans group has one of the highest unemployment rates: 67.27%, 27 points above the average for the LGTBI group, according to the latest official data published by the Women’s Institute, although other measurements raise the figure up to 85%. Another alarming number is the 40% of transgender people who claim to have been rejected in interviews due to prejudice towards their identity.
Positive Support, an entity that works on diversity, has served 150 people in Madrid in 2021. Of these, 54 were transgender people, more than a third. Almudena García, its coordinator, explains that “something we see a lot in transsexual men and women is that they don’t usually ask for help, because they don’t feel represented: they don’t identify with the available social and employment resources.”
Regarding the difficulty of proving discrimination due to transphobia or LGTBIphobia in the workplace, it is very difficult. “It’s much more subtle,” says Luis Sánchez, coordinator of legal advice for the Collective of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals of Madrid, COGAM. “The Supreme Court declared invalid dismissals for sexual or gender identity many years ago, and other reasons are used.”
Both entities claim the lack of existence of diversity plans in companies. “Just as progress was made in equality plans at the time, it is necessary in this sense, but not only for the LGTBI collective, but for any type of diversity, such as migration. We need safe work environments where we are judged for our work”, they conclude.
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