Russian Court Sides With Trans Employee in a Civil Rights First

Anastasia Vasilyeva was fired from a printing press job after 10 years of employment when she sought to change her work ID from male to female. Now, a Russian court has said that she was unfairly dismissed, a groundbreaking decision in a country where LGBT people face hostility.

The St Petersburg court decision means that Vasilyeva has been reinstated to her job and awarded the equivalent of $155 for emotional distress and a further $28,500 for lost income.

While the victory is, in itself, edifying for Vasilyeva, it also carries national significance. This is the first time a court has specifically ruled on workplace discrimination facing Russia’s trans population and found in favor of the plaintiff. In a country that has put a great deal of energy into demonizing and marginalizing its LGBT population via its “gay propaganda” laws and other such statutes, this is a breakthrough moment.

“This court decision will, in my opinion, give strength and confidence to transgender people defending their rights in Russia,” said Vasilyeva’s lawyer Max Olenichev.

The printing press company where Vasilyeva worked attempted to head the discrimination case off at the pass without even looking at the issue of trans rights itself. They cited a 2000 government resolution that prohibits women from holding a position in over 450 jobs that are deemed dangerous or supposedly too taxing. These are jobs like being a ship’s mechanic, that require people to go underground alongside heavy machinery or where workers need to lift heavy things. By changing gender, the employer argued, Vasilyeva had fallen foul of the law, because her job description was not open to females, so they had to let her go.

Interestingly, Putin reinstated the Soviet-era laws as a specific attempt to “preserve” female fertility and help Russia recover some of the population numbers it has lost since the Soviet era. The court found that, because Vasilyeva is not capable of having children, the company unfairly applied the rule and that it unlawfully violated her employment rights.

“They were aware of the gender correction but did nothing until the change of documents which took almost a year,” Vasilyeva told Sky News. “I carried out my duties well throughout that time but when they received my new documents they immediately referred to the list of prohibited professions and fired me. I don’t know why the stars aligned so well but I’m definitely happy. This law is discrimination. For me, the person comes first irrespective of gender. And each person should be aware of and understand all the risks associated with the profession they’re working in.”

This isn’t just an important case for trans rights in the area, though it is certainly a landmark in that regard. It also progresses the fight against Russia’s sexist laws prohibiting women from working certain jobs. In fact, Vasilyeva’s lawyers believe this case could be precedent-setting in that it now means all women who are not capable of reproducing may now be exempt from these employment restrictions.

Vasilyeva’s employer could appeal this ruling and take the case from the district level to the High Court, but at the time of writing, they had not decided to do so.

For the moment, then, this is a case to celebrate as the weight of Russian law has affirmed LGBT rights and women’s rights.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

28 comments

Jeramie D
Jeramie Dyesterday

That's a surprise.

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Steven L Jones

All dictators try to recreate the country in their own image or morality.

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Paulo R
Paulo Ryesterday

that's just great!

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Sarah A
Sarah A1 days ago

Thank you

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David C
David C2 days ago

wow, good for now

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Colin C
Colin C2 days ago

Good news for now.

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Marija M
Marija M2 days ago

What a news, tks for sharing.

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Danuta W
Danuta W2 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Debbi W
Debbi W2 days ago

That's amazing and give hope that the Russian people are more open minded than Putin, thank goodnesss.

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Peggy B
Peggy B3 days ago

Wow. I am surprised. Well done.

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