Case in Focus

Forstater v CGD Europe and Ors.

What happened?

The Claimant engaged in debates on social media about gender identity issues and made some remarks which some transgender people found offensive. Some of her colleagues complained about her comments and as a result her consultancy contract was not renewed. However, she felt that she had been discriminated against because of her beliefs. There was a preliminary hearing to determine whether the Claimant’s belief was a philosophical belief within the meaning of s.10 of the Equality Act 2010. The Tribunal held that the belief, being absolutist in nature and the fact that the Claimant would “refer to a person by the sex she considers appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment”, was one that was “not worthy of respect in a democratic society “according to Grainger V. The Claimant appealed.

The Hearings:

In the appeal, it was found that the Tribunal had made an error in their application of Grainger V which suggests that these beliefs would be equal to Nazism or totalitarianism. Furthermore, the Claimant’s gender-critical beliefs, which were widely shared, did not seek to destroy the rights of trans persons. That does not mean, however, that those with gender-critical beliefs can indiscriminately and needlessly refer to trans persons in terms other than they would wish. Such conduct could, depending on the circumstances, amount to harassment of, or discrimination against, a trans person.

Take-away points:

  • The regrettable reality for many trans persons, is that something which most take for granted – the sense of self and autonomy in identity – is under constant challenge and attack.
  • It is important to have equality policies in place in order to protect employees from discrimination of any kind.
  • Social media policies should be in place so that employees are aware of how their expressed views could affect their job and how they should conduct themselves.