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by Margaret Taylor
20 May 2024
Gender-critical employee wins discrimination case against rape crisis centre

Image: Alamy

Gender-critical employee wins discrimination case against rape crisis centre

Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre (ERCC) unlawfully discriminated against an employee due to her gender-critical beliefs and unfairly constructively dismissed her following a “Kafkaesque” disciplinary process, an employment tribunal has found.

Roz Adams, who joined the centre as a councillor in late 2020, had claimed she was forced out of the government-funded organisation because she did not subscribe to the view put to her by Green MSP Maggie Chapman – then the centre’s chief operating officer – that “trans women are women”.

That came after Adams spoke to colleagues about a service user asking if another counsellor was a man or a woman and saying she would feel “very uncomfortable talking to a man”. The centre went on to launch disciplinary proceedings against Adams.

The tribunal, which sat in Edinburgh in January and April this year, agreed that Adams had been discriminated against, with judge Ian McFatridge finding she had been subjected to a “completely spurious and mishandled disciplinary process” that was “deeply flawed”, “somewhat reminiscent of the work of [novelist] Franz Kafka” and prompted because ERCC chief executive Mridul Wadhwa – a trans woman – “had formed the view that [Adams] was transphobic”.

In his judgment McFatridge noted that Adams, who had appealed against the disciplinary process and raised a grievance against ERCC, would have remained an employee of the organisation if it had given her “a clear statement that they do not consider her to be transphobic”.

“It appeared to the tribunal to be absolutely clear that the reason why this was not given was because, in an act of unlawful discrimination, the respondent’s view was that the claimant was transphobic,” he wrote. “It is also noted that the claimant is due an apology but no apology is given.”

McFatridge noted that Adams had felt compelled to resign from the centre and that her resignation was “caused by the respondent’s unlawful breach of contract”.

“Their breach went to the very root of the contract,” he said. “The claimant could have absolutely no confidence going forward that the respondents would comply with their obligation of trust and confidence towards her.

“This obligation had been comprehensively breached by them up to that point. The tribunal’s view was that the claimant’s claim of unfair constructive dismissal succeeds.”

In a statement released after the judgment was published, Adams said the finding “validates and makes worthwhile three years of struggle” and is a “victory for all people who have been subjected to sexual violence who need a choice of worker and group support on the basis of sex in order to feel safe”.

“I hope the Scottish Government, charity regulator OSCR, Rape Crisis Scotland and all those in the sector feel emboldened by this judgment to safeguard this important choice for survivors, as part of ensuring services are welcoming,” she said.

“I firmly believe that we will only find solutions that work for everyone through fearless, respectful well-informed dialogue. I hope this ruling supports that to happen wherever it is needed.”

Rape Crisis Scotland, which has commissioned a review into the practices and procedures of ERCC, said it was “concerned by some of the evidence arising from the tribunal” that suggested ERCC “may have fallen short” of the “high quality of service all survivors can expect from a rape crisis centre”.

It added that it will be “working with rape crisis centres across Scotland to consider the judgment and anything further we need to do to ensure survivors are able to access the services they need after being raped or sexually abused”.

In a statement, ERCC’s board of directors said the organisation is “saddened” by the ruling but added that they will “now take time to reflect on the written judgment”.

“We strive to provide a safe accessible and inclusive service and are committed to improving continuously,” the statement said.

“We are fully supportive of Rape Crisis Scotland’s commissioning of an independent review of ERCC practice.

“This will help ensure our practices and procedures meet the highest standards as set out in the Rape Crisis National Service Standards, and that survivors receive the exceptional quality of support they deserve.

“We want to reassure all survivors who are currently accessing our services and anyone seeking support that we are still here for you, and you matter to us. Our services remain unaffected by these events.”

The tribunal will hold a further hearing to determine the remedy that Adams is entitled to in order to settle the dispute.

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