Lawyer is sued after expressing the ‘belief that only women menstruate’

A lawyer linked to the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is being sued with her department after she made gender-critical statements at work, including expressing the belief that only women menstruate.

Elspeth Duemmer Wrigley, who works for ‘an arms-length body to a government department’ and chairs a civil service network representing staff with gender-critical views, will appear at an employment tribunal next week, accused of harassment over comments and posts shared at work.


Among the reasons given for the lawsuit, she says the claimant is suing her for a statement made during a seminar on ‘Women and Autism’ in which she said that ‘only women menstruate’.

According to Ms Duemmer Wrigley, the claimant – who has not been named – believes the existence of the network ‘has the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and/or offensive environment for the claimant’.

Elspeth Duemmer Wrigley said she is being sued over comments and posts she made at work

In her crowdfunder, Ms Duemmer Wrigley said her department is being sued, among other reasons, for ‘allowing our departmental SEEN network to exist.

She cites a number of reasons why she is personally being sued, including the seminar statement and a post listing the nine protected characteristics, not including gender expression, gender identity or gender following ‘errors in staff training’ that included them.


And she notes a statement made on an internal work forum ‘in which I explained why I was gender critical’.

In the statement, Ms Duemmer Wrigley says: ‘A number of organisations and charities cater specifically for those with protected beliefs around gender identity (for example, Mermaids, Stonewall and Gires). Writers and activists with these beliefs are posted on Yammer.

‘However, despite occasionally taking positions some may consider controversial, the exploration of different views is to be welcomed. We are an organisation with many different perspectives, after all.’

She adds: ‘I’d also be happy to talk directly with anyone interested, especially to dispel some of the myths that this is a position rooted in ignorance, bigotry or hate, or that those such as myself have any ill-will towards those in other communities.

‘I am sure there is more common ground than difference in this sometimes heated debate.’


She mentions she is ‘restrained by [her] situation’ on how she can currently describe the case and says she cannot comment on what other parties are doing about it.

But she says if the claim succeeds, it’s ‘likely that any gender critical statements… are likely to be difficult if not impossible to make within the Civil Service and its related bodies’.

She notes the SEEN network is among the first gender critical staff networks in any organisation, and that since inception a number of similar groups have emerged in the City, police, parliament, HR and in STEM.

Ms Duemmer Wrigley says she has submitted an ET3 Response – to respond to a claim of unlawful treatment made by an employee – and the next step will be the Preliminary Hearing on March 25.

Asking for help from supporters to fund her legal costs, she has since raised more than £21,000 of a £40,000 target.

She says if there are any funds left over at the end of the case, they will be shared ‘with any ongoing gender critical litigation in the public sector’.

The Cabinet Office provides guidance on SEEN, referencing its self-definition it as ‘a staff network committed to promoting and supporting sex equality and equity between women and men in our workplaces, and helping all staff to thrive at work and fulfil their potential’.


SEEN membership is open to UK civil servants and public sector staff – from central government departments, agencies, and their associated public bodies including arm’s length bodies, the group says.

MailOnline has contacted SEEN and Defra for comment.

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