A woman who was suspended by council bosses over he belief a person “cannot change their sex” has won a landmark legal claim.
Rachel Meade, from Dartford in Kent, won the discrimination case on the basis of her protected beliefs under the Equality Act 2010.
The social worker was sanctioned by Social Work England and subsequently suspended by Westminster City Council for gross misconduct.
Meade received a final written warning after her suspension.
She claimed she was “bullied into silence” when trying to “speak up for women’s rights”.
The posts were mostly made during the Government’s consultation period on the reform to the Gender Recognition Act.
A 51-page judgment declared Meade’s Facebook posts fell “within her protected rights for freedom of thought and freedom to manifest her beliefs”.
It also ruled: “The opinions expressed by the claimant could not sensibly be viewed as being transphobic when properly considered in their full context from an objective perspective, but rather her expressing an opinion contrary to the interpretation of legislation, or perhaps more accurately the amendment to existing legislation, advocated for by trans lobbying groups to include, but not limited to, Stonewall.”
Responding to the judgment, Meade said it was a “huge relief to be so completely vindicated”.
She added: “It has been a horrendous experience. This ruling makes it clear that I was entitled to contribute to the important public debate on sex and gender.
“I hope it will make it easier for other regulated professionals to speak up without threats to their career and reputation.”
Shazia Khan, a lawyer from Cole Khan Solicitors representing Meade, called the judgment a “landmark victory for common sense and free speech in the culture war on gender issues”.
She added: “We demand apologies from Westminster City Council and Social Work England who have to date failed to acknowledge and accept their breaches of the Equality Act 2010 and the harrowing impact of their actions upon my client.
A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: “We apologise to Rachel Meade for the way she has been treated and the upset that has been caused.
“We acknowledge and accept the findings of the tribunal.
“As recent landmark cases have shown and the tribunal noted, the issues and policy making involving gender recognition and rights is a fast-evolving area.
“We will be carefully studying the points made in the judgement and considering what changes we need to make at Westminster City Council to ensure the best balance we can to support our staff, service users and our partners.”
Colum Conway, Chief Executive of Social Work England, added: “We acknowledge the Judgment of the London Central Employment Tribunal in the case of Ms Rachel Meade against Westminster City Council and Social Work England.
“The tribunal made findings in respect of Ms Meade’s claims against Social Work England.
“As such, we do not intend to provide further comment at this time. Any further updates will be published on our website.”
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