The gig economy has been under considerable legal fire in recent months, and in the latest turn, a transgender woman is bringing a discrimination claim against the courier company Gnewt Cargo, and its parent company, Menzies Distribution.
Hayley Stanley used to be a van driver for the company, but claims she was harassed and bullied due to her gender reassignment over a period of three years. Unlike recent cases involving the gig economy, which have focused on substantive benefits such as the right to the national minimum wage and holidays, this case will be the first to focus on equality and discrimination law within the sector.
Companies such as Deliveroo, Uber, Hermes and Pimlico Plumbers have all recently been involved in cases in which the courts have held that the claimants involved should be categorised as employed workers, rather than as self-employed, freelance or independent contractors. Hayley Stanley was similarly described as falling into the latter category, which means that she is not protected by the same extensive discrimination laws that govern normal employment relationships. If Hayley is found to be an independent contractor, then she will have no legal protection against discrimination. In fact, independent contractors have no employment rights at all, since the nature of their work means that they have no boss or employer.
Gwent Cargo dismissed Hayley after she allegedly purposefully damaged a roller shutter, although she counters that it was accidental. She was given no warning of the dismissal, and no option to appeal. She will be supported by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which argues that this case represents a larger issue of the government failing to provide adequate protection. Its general secretary, Jason Moyer-Lee, commented: “If we want employment laws to mean anything, the government needs to actively enforce them”.
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