An Auckland barbershop has been ordered to pay a former employee nearly $20,000 after telling the transgender woman that she had to keep working as a man or she would no longer have a job.
The Employment Relations Authority has ruled Dakota Hemmingson was unfairly dismissed 14 months ago, in a case that could be a New Zealand first.
As Ahren, Hemmingson knew she wasn't being true to herself, so she would become Dakota.
"It's good to feel authentic and feel honest to myself."
She told her boss she intended to transition, but was told she didn't meet the commercial profile of the business.
She was left with the impression that if she didn't work as a male, she wouldn't have a job.
Hemmingson then got a letter saying it was in the best interest of both parties if her employment ended.
Now, in the wake of the authority's ruling, she feels vindicated.
"It's just the beginning of something bigger and I'm so proud to be a part of this."
Hemmingson hopes the ruling will be used by other people in her situation, and that gender identity will be protected by law.
She says the personal cost has been huge, and she counts herself in the 41 per cent of transgender people who have attempted suicide.
She also says New Zealand has a long way to go in dealing with people like her.
"It's amazing how little people know about transgender people."