ET Partly in Favour of Christian Social Worker with Anti-LGBTQ Views Who Had Job Offer Withdrawn

In Mr Felix Ngole v Touchstone Leeds, a Christian social worker achieved a partial victory in his employment tribunal case. The tribunal ruled in his favour regarding direct religious belief discrimination, finding that Touchstone Leeds had unlawfully withdrawn his job offer upon learning of his anti-LGBTQ views. 

However, the tribunal dismissed his other claims, leading him to announce his intention to appeal the decision. Below, we delve into the details of the case and outline the employment tribunal’s judgment. 

If you have experienced religious belief discrimination, contact Redmans Solicitors without delay. Our team of specialist employment lawyers can address your questions and help determine your eligibility to claim compensation.

To get started:

The Facts in Mr Felix Ngole v Touchstone Leeds


Felix Ngole (“the Claimant”) is a Christian social worker who graduated from Sheffield University in October 2021. Touchstone Leeds (“the Respondent”) is a mental health and well-being charity known for serving the LGBTQ community, various faith groups, and other diverse populations.

On 19 May 2022, the respondent provisionally offered the claimant the role of discharge mental health support worker. This was contingent upon satisfactory written references and an enhanced disclosure and barring service check.

Upon receiving the references, the respondent found them insufficient. Although factual and not negative, they didn’t address the respondent’s questions.

As such, on 7 June, the respondent attempted to contact the references by phone and successfully reached one. During this conversation, the referee appeared hesitant to provide additional information about the Christian social worker. This raised concerns about the accuracy of the claimant’s employment history.

Christian Social Worker Has His Job Offer Withdrawn

Consequently, the respondent searched Google and discovered articles about the claimant from BBC News and The Guardian. The Guardian’s article, published on 27 October 2017, was titled “Christian thrown out of university over anti-gay remarks loses appeal”. It detailed how the claimant lost a lawsuit against Sheffield University after being barred from finishing his degree due to expressing his Christian views. 

The BBC article published nearly two years later, was headlined “Sheffield University student wins Facebook post appeal”. This described how the claimant successfully appealed the original court decision, with the university being urged to reconsider its stance.

However, the respondent didn’t read the appeal court’s ruling, relying solely on the news articles. They concluded that the claimant’s anti-LGBTQ views were inconsistent with their ethos. Particularly, they focused on his statement that “The Bible and God identify homosexuality as a sin” and his subsequent removal from the university.

Kathryn Hart, the respondent’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, expressed serious concerns about the potential negative impact of the claimant’s views on vulnerable service users and staff members, many of whom are part of the LGBTQ community. The organisation noted that 23% of their staff identify as LGB and another 8% as transgender or non-binary.

Ultimately, the respondent determined that hiring the Christian social worker posed “too great a risk”. They recognised that withdrawing the job offer would disadvantage him but felt that the potential harm to service users outweighed this.

Respondent Gives Christian Social Worker a Second Chance

On 10 June, the respondent informed the claimant of their decision to withdraw the job offer. The claimant responded 45 minutes later, requesting clarification and labelling the decision “grossly unfair”. He sent further correspondence the next day, arguing that the assumption he wouldn’t provide equitable service to LGBTQ individuals was offensive and potentially discriminatory.

Then, on 14 June, the respondent explained their decision, citing concerns about the claimant’s ability to serve LGBTQ users impartially. Despite this, they gave the claimant a second chance and invited him to provide assurances that his views would not affect his professional duties. Subsequently, an in-person meeting was held on 11 July. 

Unfortunately for the claimant, the respondent reaffirmed their decision. They stated he hadn’t sufficiently assured them he could “actively promote LGBTQI+ services” and effectively perform the role. Therefore, the decision to withdraw his job offer stood.

As a result, the Christian social worker initiated employment tribunal proceedings. He alleged direct and indirect religious belief discrimination and harassment.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

The employment tribunal examined multiple claims of harassment and discrimination, favouring the claimant on one account. They ruled that the initial withdrawal of his job offer amounted to direct religious belief discrimination. This was because the decision was influenced by his anti-LGBTQ views and, in the tribunal’s opinion, was disproportionate without attempting to seek assurances from the Christian social worker first.

However, the tribunal ultimately dismissed the rest of the allegations. Here, the tribunal focused on the impact of the claimant’s actions rather than the beliefs themselves.

Whilst they found the initial withdrawal disproportionate, they didn’t feel the same about the respondent’s subsequent reasoning or offer to the claimant to provide reassurance. This was because the respondent’s actions aligned with their safeguarding interests of service users.

Furthermore, the tribunal concluded that the respondent did not intend to violate the claimant’s dignity or create a hostile environment for him. When they questioned him during the meeting, they tried to ascertain whether the claimant was the right candidate for the role. In the tribunal’s eyes, the respondent had legitimate concerns about the claimant’s views potentially impacting the mental health of LGBTQ service users.

As such, the remaining claims of harassment and discrimination were dismissed. Since the Christian social worker succeeded with one direct discrimination claim, a remedy hearing will be scheduled. The claimant will also appeal his unsuccessful claims, believing the ruling will set a dangerous precedent, enabling employers to block Christians from employment.

If you have any questions about religious belief discrimination or believe your rights have been breached, contact us today. Redmans Solicitors have vast employment law experience and can provide specialist advice following a quick chat.

Get in touch with us now by: