An employment tribunal case involving a barrister who is alleging her chambers and LGBTQ+ campaign group Stonewall tried to silence her views on gender has begun this week.
Allison Bailey, a lesbian barrister who co-founded the LGB Alliance campaign group – which opposes Stonewall’s views that transgender women are women in the eyes of the law – claims Stonewall sent a complaint about her views to her chambers, Garden Court in London.
Bailey claims she was victimised for raising concerns about Stonewall’s actions within its Diversity Champions scheme. She alleges she lost work and income because of Stonewall’s complaint. Both Stonewall and Garden Court Chambers have refuted her claims.
In 2020 Bailey launched a claim for indirect discrimination and victimisation, but last year a judge agreed that she should be able to make further arguments for discrimination on the grounds of philosophical belief, following the ruling in the case of Maya Forstater vs CGD Europe & Others.
In the Forstater case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that researcher and writer Maya Forstater was entitled to express her views relating to transgender issues on her personal Twitter account as those views constituted a philosophical belief. Forstater claimed her contract with thinktank CGD Europe was not renewed because of her beliefs.
Forstater’s case was sent back to the employment tribunal and was heard last month. A decision is expected in May.
It is understood that Bailey will argue that her views meet the definition of a philosophical belief and are therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010. Her employment tribunal hearing began yesterday (25 April).
‘Stop policing free speech’
A crowdfunding page for the Allison Bailey case says: “I hope that my legal action will bring me justice. I also hope that it can stop Stonewall from policing free speech via its Diversity Champions scheme.
“Without most of the public realising it, a large swathe of British employers have signed up to the Stonewall value system. It has done this by trying to silence and vilify women like me who have genuine concerns about how its approach to trans inclusivity conflicts with the protections, safety and dignity of women, girls, children and LGB people.”
A spokesperson for Garden Court Chambers said: “We strongly refute the claims made against us. We have a professional obligation to investigate any complaints received by our chambers. Following an investigation in 2019 into complaints made about Ms Bailey’s social media posts, it was concluded that no action was necessary.”
A Stonewall spokesperson said: “While we aren’t able to comment on the specifics in an ongoing case, we vigorously deny the allegations and look forward to robustly defending ourselves when this matter is heard by the employment tribunal.”
Implications for other employers
Taylor Wessing employment lawyer Shireen Shaikh said the Allison Bailey case is important for employers because they may find themselves in a situation where they have to respond to gender-critical comments made by their employees.
“How an organisation then responds could give rise to claims,” said Shaikh. “This case is an example of an individual going further than expressing scepticism about gender ideology but saying it threatens to erode the rights of women and gay people, and asking the organisation she works for to distance itself from Stonewall.
“This is an example of an individual saying she received adverse treatment for having expressed a critical view about what she regards as an ideology completely at odds with her understanding of equality.”
Florence Brocklesby, founder at employment law firm Bellevue Law, said Bailey’s case will be a test of how the employment tribunal will apply the precedent set by the Forstater EAT ruling.
“The case will highlight the tension, experienced by an increasing number of employers and service providers, between the rights of the transgender community and those of people who hold gender critical views or require single sex spaces, for example for religious reasons,” she said. “This is a complex area of law, and employers would be well advised to take advice from specialist lawyers, rather than campaign groups.”