Woman wins case against Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre over gender views

A woman has won her employment tribunal case against a rape crisis centre where she was subjected to a “heresy hunt” for her gender critical views.

Roz Adams has won a claim of constructive dismissal against Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre (ERCC), with the tribunal judge finding she had suffered harassment and discrimination.

The tribunal heard that Adams is supportive of trans individuals but believes that biological sex is real and not to be conflated with gender identity, beliefs which are currently referred to as “gender critical” or sex realist.

The ruling describes how when working at the centre, having started the job in February 2021, she became aware of its mantra that “a trans woman is a woman”.

The tribunal heard that she felt it became more and more apparent that there were issues regarding the way that gender issues were dealt with in the organisation, which she described as “eggshelly”.

It heard that a particular issue for Ms Adams, referred to as the claimant, was what to say to service users who wanted to be sure that they would be seen by someone who was biologically a woman.

In June 2022, she received an email from an abuse survivor, who wanted to know whether the person she was going to see was a man or a woman, and sought guidance from her superiors about how to respond.

Disciplinary proceedings against Ms Adams then started in late June 2022, although the tribunal said it could not establish the precise chain of events that let to this.

In the ruling, Judge McFatridge wrote: “In the view of the tribunal, we are entitled to infer from all of the evidence that the reason the disciplinary investigation was commenced and the claimant interviewed was because the respondent wished to make an example of the claimant because of her gender critical beliefs.

“It appeared to be the view of the respondent’s senior management that the claimant was guilty of a heresy in that she did not fully subscribe to the gender ideology which they did and which they wished to promote in the organisation. This was an act of harassment on the basis of her belief.”

It added: “We would agree with the characterisation of the claimant’s representative that this was a heresy hunt.”

In April 2021, the centre was at the centre of controversy when Mridul Wadhwa, a trans woman who did not have a gender recognition certificate and was thus legally male, was appointed as its new chief executive.

The tribunal said it appeared the centre’s chief executive had formed the view that the claimant was transphobic which led to a “completely spurious and mishandled” disciplinary process.

It said the investigation was “deeply flawed” and “somewhat reminiscent of the work of Franz Kafka”.

The tribunal said that Ms Adams felt she had no alternative but to resign, which she did in spring 2023, and upheld her claim of unfair constructive dismissal.

Ms Adams said she welcomed the employment tribunal ruling.

She said: “They unanimously found that Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre unlawfully discriminated against me on the grounds of my sex realist (gender critical) belief and constructively unfairly dismissed me.

“This 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.

“For me it validates and makes worthwhile three years of struggle.”

She thanked those who supported her and added: “I hope Scottish Government, OSCR (Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), 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 to all who need them.”

Ms Adams started work in May 2023 at Beira’s Place, a support service for women who have experienced sexual violence, which was founded by JK Rowling.

The ERCC’s board of directors said they were “saddened” by the outcome of the tribunal and will now take time to reflect on the written judgement.

They said: “We strive to provide a safe accessible and inclusive service and are committed to improving continuously.

“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.”

Rape Crisis Scotland said that an independent review into the practices and procedures at the autonomous Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre has been commissioned.

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