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Tax expert awarded £100k in trans tweets tribunal

Tax expert Maya Forstater, has been awarded £100,000 for discrimination and victimisation at tribunal after losing her job due to posting gender-critical beliefs on Twitter.

Forstater’s contract at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), a think tank, was not renewed in March 2019 due to complaints from staff members about tweets expressing the view that transgender women could not change their biological sex. 

This included posts in which she drew parallels between self-identifying transgender women and Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who misrepresented herself as black, and another tweet in which she said: “A man’s internal feeling that he is a woman has no basis in material reality.”  

When the case initially reached tribunal in 2019, the tribunal rejected her claim that she had been discriminated against because of her belief.  

The tribunal judge, James Tayler, said her views were "not worthy of respect in a democratic society”. 

However, the case was appealed to the High Court, where judge Akhlaq Choudhury ruled her beliefs fall under Section 10 of the Equality Act, relating to the protection of religious or philosophical belief, and Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) which protects freedom of thought. 

The compensation awarded on 30 June is for loss of earnings, injury to feelings and aggravated damages. 

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In an interview, Forstater told The Times: “I think it sends a message to employers that this is discrimination like any other discrimination and that the compensation can be significant. 

“Organisations are going to have to rethink all of their approach to equality and diversity to make sure they really are following the law and not just what activists tell them.” 

As colleagues' views on transgender identities can be polarised Woosh Raza, director of people, culture and inclusion at voluntary sector body NCVO, said striking the right balance in the workplace is challenging for HR.  

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “People have differences in beliefs and principles, and that is part of having a diverse society.  

“However, the issue of trans inclusion is complex for HR to navigate. 

“Many may find themselves asking what is acceptable in terms of freedom of speech? And what is unacceptable and actually contributing to creating an exclusionary environment or inciting hate?” 

Joanne Lockwood, founder of diversity and inclusion consultancy SEE Change Happen, said she worries the ruling on Forstater’s case will allow people to push the boundaries of acceptable language and behaviour towards transgender people. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “This precarious situation calls for a clear response from workplaces.  

“Employers need to explicitly define their policies concerning the rights of transgender individuals and about what kind of language and views are acceptable in the workplace.  

“If we fail to address the issue of anti-trans views, we risk opening the floodgates for other forms of discrimination, such as racism, ableism, antisemitism, and sexism, to be justified under the banner of free speech and belief.” 

When addressing any instances of anti-trans dialogue in the workplace, Raza advised reviewing each case individually with a view to the impact they have on colleagues. 

He said: “Review any and all instances of anti-trans dialogue in your organisation on a case-by-case basis and assess in line with your organisational values and behaviours.  

“I would also assess the impact on your workforce. This should provide clarity on what is, and what isn’t acceptable.  

“It is much easier, and if needs be can then be reviewed and managed formally, to then assess if actions are not in line with agreed behaviours.” 

Creating clear behavioural expectations is also helpful, Raza said. 

He added: “You can strengthen this by creating an inclusive language policy and working with marginalised groups so everyone in your organisation better understands what inclusion means, why it matters, and how you create belonging for all.” 

To prevent the workplace becoming inhospitable to any marginalised groups, Lockwood said DEI and HR professionals should pay attention to the conversations about transgender people in the press. 

She said: “Now more than ever, we must strike a delicate balance between protecting individuals' freedom to hold personal beliefs and ensuring that these beliefs do not infract upon the fundamental rights and dignity of others.  

“The onus is on us to foster a workplace environment where everyone is treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their gender identity.” 

A spokesperson from CGD, Forstater’s former employer, said: “Following the employment tribunal’s remedy judgment, the case brought against CGD, its president, Masood Ahmed, and CGD Europe by Maya Forstater will come to a close. 

“CGD has and will continue to strive to maintain a workplace that is welcoming, safe, and inclusive to all.  

“The resolution of this case will allow us once again to focus exclusively on our mission: reducing global poverty and inequality through economic research that drives better policy and practice.”