CUT LOOSE: TRANSGENDER HAIRDRESSER CLAIMS UNFAIR DISMISSAL


Dakota Hemmingson now has a full-time job – looking after her mental health.

Not so long ago, she had a better job – as a hairdresser at a barber’s shop in Auckland, New Zealand.

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Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse when she told her employer she wanted to fully transition to being a woman and was “forced out of her job” at Barkers Groom Room.

Ms Hemmingson took her fight to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) claiming unjustified dismissal and has now been cleared to pursue a claim against her former employer, Matthew Swan.

The ERA judgment said she had received a letter prepared and signed by Mr Swan that said: “It would be in the best interests for both yourself and the business to end your employment with Mensworks and Barkers Groom Room effective immediately.”

In his submission, Mr Swan denied both employing and dismissing Ms Hemmingson, saying she was employed by Mens Grooming Limited – a company he took directorship of after she left.

The ERA rejected those claims and found that Mr Swan was in fact Ms Hemmingson’s employer.

Ms Hemmingson told the New Zealand Herald in March the experience with leaving her job was “the most heart breaking thing”.

“I can’t even put into words how much it hurts that they took (my career) away from me because of who I am. They made me feel I shouldn’t be doing this.

“It’s the hardest thing to even consider telling someone else you are transgender,” she said at the time.

Speaking after the judgment’s release, Ms Hemmingson said that after leaving the barber shop, “looking after my mental health is a full-time job”.

She said she fought the case because she wanted her basic human rights to be acknowledged.

“We’ve had to work hard to be who we are – the last thing we want to do is disturb the peace – we just want a life.”

Ms Hemmingson’s claim for unjustified dismissal is expected to be heard later this year.