Steel men play hardball
Christine Ehlers was left feeling humiliated yesterday morning when her bosses at multinational steel retailer Bohler Uddeholm Africa ignored a court ruling that she be given her old job back.
Ehlers, 43, won her labour court battle with the company on Friday, a year after she was fired for undergoing a sex change.
Judge Ellem Francis ruled that her dismissal was unfair and unconstitutional, and ordered her immediate reinstatement.
However, Ehlers arrived at work to be told she could not start as the board had not seen the judgment.
"I arrived at 8am and they made me wait until 9am before they saw me. They gave me a letter saying that they had not received a copy of the judgment and until the board has seen it I cannot return to work. I am feeling deflated and totally dejected," Ehlers said.
Her lawyer, Andre Schmidt, said he was shocked by the company's claim that it had not seen the judgment because he had been with Bohler Uddeholm Africa's lawyer on Friday, when he copied the judgment.
Schmidt said a letter had been sent yesterday morning to Bohler Uddeholm Africa's lawyer "requesting a written undertaking that they will comply with the court order".
Yesterday afternoon Schmidt said there had been no response from Bohler Uddeholm Africa.
"We are now instructing council to proceed with an urgent application for contempt of court," Schmidt said.
When The Times spoke to Ehlers on Sunday, she said she was "excited" about returning to her old job and that it felt like the "beginning of my life".
In his judgment, Judge Francis said he found the attitude of Bohler Uddeholm Africa "appalling".
"It is shocking that such sentiments still do exist," he said.
The judge ruled that the company must pay Ehlers from the time she was fired in January last year, write a letter of apology to her within a week, and "take steps to prevent the same unfair discrimination and to report to this court within three months on the steps taken".