Tribunal Sides with Edinburgh Rape Crises Centre Worker; Says Management Wanted To Make an Example of Her Gender Critical Beliefs

In Roz Adams v Edinburgh Rape Crises Centre, a female worker succeeded with her claims of belief discrimination and constructive dismissal. This came after she felt forced to resign when accused of being transphobic for her gender critical belief.

The Facts in Roz Adams v Edinburgh Rape Crises Centre


Roz Adams (“The Claimant”) began as a counselling support worker for Edinburgh Rape Crises Centre (“The Respondent”) in February 2021. Before starting her role, the claimant was informed of the respondent’s trans-inclusion policy. Having worked with transgender individuals before, she was initially excited and expressed her approval. However, upon beginning her employment, she identified areas she believed were problematic.

Although the claimant supported transgender individuals, she believed gender identity should not always supersede biological sex. She has a gender critical belief and thinks that not everyone has a gender identity. 

She also considers biological sex significant in cases of sexual violence as the majority of perpetrators are male, meaning most victims would prefer to speak with a woman. As such, she advocated for an approach whereby the perceptions of survivors and their choice as to the sex of their support workers were respected.

Newly Appointed CEO Brings Criticism to the Centre

In April 2021, staff learned that Mridul Wadhwa had become the new CEO of Edinburgh Rape Crises Centre. This garnered public controversy, as Ms Wadhwa was a trans woman without a gender recognition certificate, legally making her male. Controversy arose because the job had been advertised with sex-based occupational requirements, requesting only female applicants.

Despite the controversies, the claimant initially approved of her appointment, believing the improved diversity would benefit the centre’s users. She still believed, though, that individuals must be given a choice regarding their support worker’s sex.

Issues Arise with a Non-Binary Colleague

On 15 June 2022, the claimant received an email from a service user requesting clarification about her support worker’s gender. The support worker, referred to as AB, was non-binary and had changed their name to one that sounded male. The service user enquired about this, explaining that they “would feel very uncomfortable talking with a man”.

Consequently, the claimant sought advice from AB and others within Edinburgh Rape Crises Centre. While respecting AB’s privacy, she wanted to support the service user best. As such, she drafted the following:

“Thanks for asking. [AB] is a woman at birth who now identifies as non-binary…” 

This wasn’t taken well, and AB claimed the correspondence humiliated her. The claimant was told the only response to such questions was, “ERCC does not have any male volunteers/team members”. Furthermore, she was accused of being transphobic, with Ms Wadhwa telling AB, “Transphobia exists in our organisation”.

The claimant responded, apologising to AB and explaining how she’d attempted to open dialogue to prevent such incidents on various occasions. She felt that such conversations about sex and gender identity were well-intended but were shut down by the organisation.

As a short-term resolution, she suggested adding additional questions to the referral form. This approach would maintain the privacy of colleagues’ identities while allowing the service user to indicate their preference regarding the sex of their support worker. Consequently, service users could be matched with the most suitable support worker.

Investigations into the Claimant’s Conduct Commences

On 29 June, Edinburgh Rape Crises Centre invited the claimant to an investigation meeting arranged for 6 July. This shocked the claimant, as she didn’t believe she’d done anything wrong and had apologised for any unintended offence caused. 

The meeting went ahead, and the claimant heard nothing until she was invited to a second investigation meeting. It was set up to discuss new allegations of potential transphobic behaviour that had come to light following the initial investigation. Again, this horrified the claimant.

During the meeting, the claimant was presented with various allegations, such as transphobic comments during trans-inclusion training. Here, she felt she’d been misrepresented, as she’d simply asked a question. This seemed fair since, at the start of the session, they’d said, “This is a safe space where there is no such thing as a stupid question, and you can ask anything”.

Edinburgh Rape Crises Centre Begin Disciplinary Procedures

On 26 August, an investigation report was finalised, recommending formal action. Subsequently, the claimant was invited to a disciplinary hearing on 28 September, with the following charges set out:

  • Misconduct concerning failing to follow guidance on how to respond to service users’ enquiries.
  • Misconduct concerning disclosing an individual’s gender journey on a public forum.
  • Gross misconduct concerning behaviour that would likely distress colleagues, in breach of the centre’s trans inclusion and bullying and harassment policies.

This news devastated the claimant, leaving her upset and unable to work. The respondent allowed her time off to digest the news and cancelled the sessions she was due to support. Consequently, the claimant was signed off sick on 23 September.

The disciplinary hearing was pushed back to 14 October. It lasted over three hours, and at its end, the claimant handed over her grievance. She believed the way she’d been treated was unacceptable but wanted to raise it before a decision was made to show the disciplinary decision hadn’t influenced her grievance.

The Disciplinary Process is Put on Pause

On 20 October, the claimant learned that the disciplinary process would be paused while the grievance was dealt with. Unfortunately for the claimant, she learned that none of her grievances were upheld on 13 December. This was appealed, but the respondent only acknowledged that the process could have been handled better.

Eventually, on 6 February, the claimant learned of the disciplinary outcome. The respondent ruled to uphold points one and three listed above, with the latter relating to correspondence with AB. Despite this, they decided not to issue a formal warning due to the process’s time.

Even though no formal action was taken, the claimant appealed the decision. She didn’t believe her correspondence amounted to gross misconduct, as she’d apologised to AB for upsetting her and had been careful in her communication. Again, though, her appeal was unsuccessful.

The Claimant Resigns from Edinburgh Rape Crises Centre

Over the following months, the claimant didn’t feel safe to return to work. She was worried that her gender critical belief would lead to further accusations of her being transphobic. As a result, she resigned and eventually applied for a role at Beira’s Place.

Beira’s Place was another sexual violence support service for women, but one the centre didn’t agree with. This was because it only hired cis-gender women, going against their train-inclusive policies. The claimant met with those at Beira’s Palace and was offered employment starting May 2023. Following her resignation, she filed employment tribunal proceedings, claiming belief discrimination and constructive dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

The employment tribunal explained that they felt a rape crisis centre could accommodate individuals with differing philosophical beliefs. This was because it would likely support users with diverse views. Therefore, they found it crucial that neither belief holders face discrimination and that the organisation avoids disadvantaging either group.

Furthermore, they stated that the law mandates mutual tolerance in the workplace, meaning individuals must accept that others may hold deeply opposing views. The tribunal held that Edinburgh Rape Crises Centre was aware of the claimant’s gender critical belief, influencing their decisions.

Ultimately, they found deep flaws with the investigation, ruling that the claimant had been discriminated against and constructively dismissed. As such, a remedy hearing will be scheduled to determine her compensation.

If you have faced belief discrimination or believe you’ve been constructively dismissed, contact us now. Redmans Solicitors are employment law specialists and could discuss your case before advising on your possible next steps.

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