Tax expert lost job after claiming people cannot change their biological sex
Maya Forstater stated: 'I think I have the same right to talk about my understanding of sex and the Equality Act as others'
A tax expert who lost out on a job role after claiming people cannot change their biological sex repeatedly asked the organisation to give her space to air her views, a tribunal has heard.
Maya Forstater’s contract at the Centre for Global Development (CGD) was not renewed in March 2019 after she posted tweets opposing proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act that would make it easier to change a person’s legal gender.
Ms Forstater took her case to an employment tribunal on the grounds that her dismissal constituted discrimination against her beliefs.
Employment judge James Tayler originally dismissed her claim but High Court judge Justice Choudhury later ruled that the judgment had “erred in law”.
Finding in her favour in June, the High Court judge said her views “may well be profoundly offensive and even distressing”, but said they “must be tolerated in a pluralist society”.
The CGD described the ruling as “a step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all”.
The organisation said it accepted that gender critical beliefs may be protected in law, but that it would be bringing the case back to the lower Employment Tribunal “to dispute Maya Forstater’s version of events”.
On Friday, the lower tribunal heard that Sara Godfrey, who worked for HR, sent an email to colleagues in December 2018, which attached the organisation’s anti-harassment, and health and safety policies.
Ms Godfrey’s email read: “All staff have a responsibility to read and fully understand these policies and the procedures. Should you have any questions, let me know.
“We will have a chance to discuss the anti-harassment and bullying policies at the January 15 workshop, which all CGDE staff are required to (attend).”
Ms Forstater replied to all recipients: “I welcome the spirit of this policy, but I have a couple specific comments.”
She then suggested making a distinction between “sex” and “gender” under protected characteristics.
She also objected to the policy of “prohibiting the sharing of any message that might be taken as offensive to any group’s religion or belief”, arguing that “seems to be an overly broad prohibition which goes beyond being an inclusive institution”.
Later, she added: “I know that some people are offended by the statement that males who identify as women are not women.
“However this is in line with how the Equalities Act defines woman (as a ‘female of any age’) and how the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women defines ‘discrimination against women’ (as being on the basis of sex).
“Thus circulating these definitions from the Equalities Act or the CEDAW might be viewed as offensive and could potentially be prohibited under this policy!”
Asked about why she sent the email to everyone, Ms Forstater said: “I did not want to take up a considerable amount of time explaining these issues (at the workshop).
“And I did want to raise them and share them with my colleagues.”
Olivia-Faith Dobbie, representing the CGD, suggested that Ms Forstater was “repeatedly asking for space to air your views”.
She added: “It is part of a pattern of yours to compel CGD to give you space to share your views.”
Ms Forstater said she was responding to what she saw as an invitation to comment on the proposals.
Ms Dobbie also put to the claimant: “You thought that you should be able to use the workplace to air your gender-critical views – that you have a right to persuade colleagues that you are right.”
Ms Forstater replied: “I think I have the same right to talk about my understanding of sex and the Equality Act as others.”
Commenting on the start of the tribunal, Amanda Glassman, executive vice president of CGD, said: “The Centre for Global Development always aims to maintain a workplace and an environment that is welcoming, safe, and inclusive to all, including trans people.
“As these proceedings will make clear, the decision to not renew Maya Forstater’s unpaid affiliation was the result of a lengthy and carefully considered process and allowed us to remain true to our commitment to an inclusive workplace.
“The Centre for Global Development values and has always fostered an environment of intellectual debate and differences of view, but we strongly believe that this debate must be grounded in mutual respect and that all people must be treated with dignity.
“The Centre for Global Development’s mission is to reduce global poverty and inequality through economic research that drives better policy and practice by the world’s top decision-makers, and we continue to focus on this important agenda.”