Sex swap traffic warden claims she was bullied by police

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Jan Irvine claims she was put on suicide watch

A SEX SWAP traffic warden is taking legal action against Scots police, claiming she was bullied to the point where she was put on suicide watch.

Jan Irvine alleges that after the operation to make her a woman, female colleagues made cruel jokes about her voice and said they would “run out screaming” of the ladies’ toilets if she used them.

And she claims a  senior male officer at Lothian and Borders Police is said to have asked her if she “checked” the toilets before using them.

Ms Irvine – formerly known as “Ian” – is taking the force to an employment tribunal in Edinburgh claiming constructive dismissal.

Earlier this year, the 58-year-old lost her case for unfair dismissal on the grounds of sex discrimination after telling a separate employment tribunal she was victimised and harassed her when she started wearing women’s clothes and make-up to work.

The ongoing legal battle is doubly embarrassing for Lothian and Borders because the force earlier paraded Ms Irvine as an example of their commitment to equality.

Ms Irvine had her sex-change operation in 2004, whilst working as a traffic warden, a job she had held for six years.

She moved to the force’s control centre three years later but resigned in December 2009 following a string of alleged bullying incidents.

At the opening of the case this week, Ms Irvine appeared nervous, stroking a celtic cross around her neck, breathing heavily and shaking.

In a soft but unmistakeably male voice, she told the tribunal: “I was mistreated by the force as a result of a gender reassignment operation.

Referring to her move to the force’s Fettes headquarters, she added: “A colleague of mine approached me and said that she had been warned about me before I arrived.

“Straight away I knew that there had been rumours spread about me.”

Ms Irvine, wearing black pinstriped trousers, a purple floral top and black heels, said: “A cleaning lady who I had worked with before then started to make sarcastic remarks about my voice and things like that.”

She told  tribunal that another colleague had said she had “better not come into the toilets when I’m there or I’ll run out screaming”.

The cruel comments continued even when Ms Irvine tried to discuss the issue with managers, she claimed.

At one meeting with her line manager and a chief inspector, she said she was asked by the latter: “Do you not check the toilets before you go in?”

Stressed

Ms Irvine, from Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, said she had been dedicated to the force and could not understand the treatment she received.

She told the tribunal: “It fascinates me because I was good at my job. I enjoyed working at the force. I was a very loyal employee.

“I don’t know where it came from.  I spent 14 and a half years working for Lothian and Borders police,” she said.

When Ms Irvine tried to apply for a new job – as a force mediator – she claims she faced stiff resistance from managers who refused to support her.

“I didn’t go for the job because I didn’t get the support,” she told the tribunal, adding she had lost trust in her colleagues and did not “want to work in that atmosphere anymore”.

By May 2009, according to Ms Irvine, she was considering resigning.

She told the tribunal she was so distraught that a colleague was asked to check on her at home.

“They were afraid that I might hang myself,” she said.

“I felt so stressed. I was cracking up inside and was so isolated from the force.

“I needed to get away so I jumped in my car, went to my house and my heart broke.

“I went into the foetal position and I sobbed and I sobbed on the couch until I fell asleep.

“I was absolutely heartbroken that it came to this.”

Ms Irvine said she continued working in the control room for another five months until she could “no longer take it”.

The final straw, according to Ms Irvine, came when her bosses decided to review her competence for the job.

The review was ordered after she reportedly failed to take down adequate details while on a 999 call.

“I was so humiliated and I resigned on December 31st 2009,” she told the tribunal.

At the previous hearing, in January this year, Ms Irvine’s case for unfair dismissal on the grounds of sex discrimination was thrown out after the panel ruled the claim was time-barred.

It was found Ms Irvine failed to prove any acts of harassment occurred less than three months before she presented her claim.

But she had been allowed to continue with a separate complaint of constructive dismissal.

She told the earlier hearing: “I was always taught to treat people with respect, but respect works in both ways and has to be earned – I felt as though I was not acknowledged by my two supervisors when I was out working on the ‘shop floor’.”

In 2004, Lothian and Borders police became the first force inScotlandto introduce guidelines for the employment of transexual officers, which Ms Irvine publicly backed.

Ms Irvine said she hoped other forces would follow Lothian and Borders’ example of gender equality.

She said she was relieved to have undergone her sex change, saying: “For years I lived with something inside me and I finally started to recognise the person looking back at me.”

The tribunal continues.