discriminationdiscrimination issuesemployment lawemployment tribunal decisionsemployment tribunalsEquality Act 2010

You may recall my post back in July of this year, detailing the case of Christian doctor David Mackereth, and his claims that his contract had been terminated due to his refusal to use transgender pronouns.

By way of a very brief summary, when starting a new role as a contract worker at the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) assessment centre in Birmingham, Dr Mackareth attended an induction session during which another worker asked how they as assessors should address transgender claimants.  The answer given was that it was the DWP’s policy for transgender claimants to be referred to by their preferred name, gender pronoun and title.  Dr Mackareth expressed that he did not mind using whatever first name the claimant wanted to use, but due to his Christian convictions he could not use pronouns – the words ‘he’ and ‘she’ in ‘an arbitrary manner’.

A few days later Dr Mackareth was called in for an urgent meeting with his contract manager, and claimed that he was asked “if you had a man six feet tall with a beard, who says he wants to be addressed as ‘she’ and ‘Mrs’, would you do that?” to which Dr Mackareth responded that he could not due to his religion.  Following the termination of his contract, the 56 year old doctor alleged that the DWP had discriminated against his religious beliefs, which led to him losing his job as a disability claim assessor.

In its judgment, the Employment Tribunal unanimously found his objection to transgenderism was “incompatible with human dignity and conflicts with the fundamental rights of others, specifically here, transgender individuals”.

Judge Christopher Perry said that refusing to refer to a transgender person by their relevant pronouns, titles and sex would be discriminatory and further stated that any person holding Dr Mackareth’s beliefs would have been treated in the same way as somebody who did not hold such beliefs.  He added:  “It is important given the public interest in this case that we make clear this case did not concern whether Dr Mackareth is a Christian and if that qualifies for protection under the Equality Act.  That was never in dispute.  Nor do we have any doubt that he also genuinely (and fervently) held the beliefs we set out in full or his entitlement to hold those beliefs”

“What this case concerned is whether he was entitled to manifest those beliefs in the circumstances that applied here. He accepted that his beliefs meant that insofar as a service user was a transgender individual within the meaning of the Equality Act, that whilst he did not wish them to, his actions would cause offence and potentially breach the Equality Act.”

“We find that if the service user also held a full gender recognition certificate Dr Mackareth’s position was that he would also potentially breach the Gender Recognition Act for the reasons we give above”.

Dr Mackareth’s complaints of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and harassment under the Equality Act 2010 were therefore dismissed.  Consequently he has said he will appeal the decision and stated “….my 30 years as a doctor are now considered irrelevant compared to the risk that someone else might be offended.  I believe that I have to appeal in order to fight for the freedom of Christians – and any other NHS member of staff – to speak the truth”.