Delivery giants FedEx are being sued by a former warehouse worker who claims she was forced out by cruel colleagues who tormented her for being transgender.
Toy Prendergast, 55, says she was subjected to insults including being called a ‘f****** queer’ at the firm’s HQ in Stoke, Staffs.
Legal papers allege the sick abuse from former work friends started when she began living as a woman.
Mrs Prendergast had previously spent 12 happy years working at the global firm’s UK HQ in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs, as depot operative Paul before beginning her transition in 2017.
But the delivery worker, who quit her job in May, says she was subjected to sick taunts on her first day back as her new identity.
She is now suing FedEx for constructive dismissal and gender reassignment discrimination.
Mrs Prendergast said: ‘I used to be one of the gang as Paul – but when I came out as Toy they turned on me straight away. ‘My life was made hell. I was scared to go to work – I was scared for my safety.
Toy Prendergast, 55, claims constructive dismissal and gender reassignment discrimination
Mrs Prendergast was working at FedEx in Newcastle, Staffs, when she says the abuse started
This picture from Toy shows how she looked before her transition and working at FedEx
‘Virtually every day I was being abused. I would wake up every night crying and drenched in sweat.
‘I just couldn’t go on – I was having too many suicidal thoughts. I was panicking at the very thought of going into work. Every day was like a recurring nightmare.’
Tribunal papers, known as particulars of claim, state Mrs Prendergast was subjected to insults ‘almost daily’ – with one colleague ‘suggesting sexual intercourse movements on a handrail and other obscene gestures with his hands’.
She also claims that she was forced to complete heavy tasks expected of male colleagues that were ‘very difficult’ for her as a transgender woman.
Mrs Prendergast, from Cinderford, Glos, said she previously had a ‘successful and happy career’ at the company but was left ‘heartbroken’ by the abuse from her former friends.
She said: ‘I was made to feel third class. When I went to the smoking room, the guys I used to call my mates would turn their backs on me.
Toy released pictures of her when she was still Paul before her transition aged 52 in 2017
Toy Prendergast holding a child relative 16 years ago before she transitioned to a woman
‘I was on my own in the warehouse and whenever I complained I was never taken seriously.
‘I was just left to suffer in silence. The hostility from men who had previously seen me as one of the gang left me shocked.
‘I was called abusive names all the time. I tried to muddle through and rise above it but things became extremely difficult.
‘I dreaded coming to work and couldn’t sleep at night worrying about work the next day.’
Lawyers for Mrs Prendergast say she was left to work in a ‘toxic and intimidating environment that violated her dignity’.
The papers state: ‘Contrary to her hopes, her transgender status marked the beginning of hostile and abusive discriminatory treatment that was all the more hurtful because many of the perpetrators were colleagues whom she had worked with without issue previously’.
Toy in her FedEx t-shirt she still has from her previous long career working for the delivery firm
Mrs Prendergast, who suffers from severe anxiety and depression, claims that she reported the abuse but bosses failed to take it seriously. She faced ‘a further barrage of abuse and alienation to the point that she became a nervous wreck’.
She said she felt no other option but to resign in May 2020 as she felt ‘too vulnerable to go on’.
A tribunal date is yet to be set. Mrs Prendergast says she has ‘nothing left to lose’ by taking legal action.
She is awaiting transition surgery after her operation was postponed during lockdown.
Solicitor Fiona Almazedi, from Oakwood Solicitors, in Leeds, West Yorks, said: ‘The case highlights the shocking hostility faced by trans women when they attend work after transitioning – often from those they have worked alongside for years who simply cannot accept their new gender.
‘The hurt and distress that this causes cannot be underestimated and it’s a real problem in workplaces up and down the country. ‘Toy is a very brave woman but it is sad that she has been driven out of a job she loved and carried out successfully for 15 years. ‘All she ever wanted was her colleagues to support and accept her.’
A FedEx spokesman said: ‘We care for the wellbeing of all our team members and take any allegations of discrimination extremely seriously. As this is an ongoing legal matter, it is not appropriate for us to comment further.’