Rape centre worker wins tribunal over gender-critical beliefs

Roz Adams
Roz Adams has gone on to work for a support service funded by JK Rowling [BBC]

A woman who worked at a rape crisis centre was unfairly constructively dismissed for believing that those using the service should be able to know the sex of staff, a tribunal has found.

It also found that Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre had unlawfully discriminated against Roz Adams, saying that management had conducted a “heresy hunt” against her.

The ruling said the decision to launch a disciplinary process against Ms Adams was because the centre's management wanted to make an example of her because of her gender critical beliefs.

Ms Adams said the ruling had made “three years of struggle worthwhile".

She added: "I am grateful beyond words to all those who have supported me emotionally and practically to keep finding my feet and speaking my truth."

Rape Crisis Scotland, which sets service standards for member centres, has now commissioned an independent review into practices and procedures at the Edinburgh facility.

Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said “We believe that it is important that survivors can make informed choices about the services they can access at rape crisis centres.

"We know it is important for some survivors to have a choice over the sex or gender of their worker.”

Sandy Brindley is chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland [BBC]

The tribunal heard that when Ms Adams joined Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre around February 2021, she was supportive of trans people and "excited" by its trans inclusion policy.

In the months that followed, she began to feel there were issues around the way gender issues were dealt with by the organisation and described the atmosphere as "eggshelly".

She said she became aware that people who wrote to the centre about the subject were "classed as bigots" and emails from them were kept in a folder called "hate emails".

Much of the tribunal centred on a disciplinary process that began after Ms Adams sought clarity on how to respond to an abuse survivor who wanted to know if a support worker who identified as non-binary was a man or a woman.

Some people who do not consider themselves to have a solely male or female gender identity describe themselves as non-binary.

It found that the support worker in question had changed their name to one that “sounded and appeared to be male”.

Management drafted a response clarifying that the centre did not employ men, but advised against divulging any further details due to staff privacy.

Ms Adams responded in June 2022 saying that the issue appeared to be a “minefield”.

The following month, she was invited to an investigation meeting regarding “potentially transphobic” views. A disciplinary process was later launched.

'Reminiscent of Kafka'

The tribunal found that the investigation should not have been launched and “was clearly motivated by a strong belief amongst the senior management and some of the claimant’s colleagues that the claimant’s views were inherently hateful".

Allegations of misconduct were upheld, but no action was taken. Ms Adams then chose to resign.

The judgment said that the centre's chief executive officer Mridul Wadhwa, who is a trans woman, appeared to believe that Ms Adams was transphobic.

It said that Ms Wadhwa was “the invisible hand behind everything that had taken place.”

It also said that it was “nonsense” to suggest any emails sent by Ms Adams were transphobic and it was “absolutely clear” that a staff member changing their name to one that sounded male was “going to cause difficulties.”

The judge said the disciplinary process used against Ms Adams was “reminiscent of the work of Franz Kafka” - the 20th Century writer whose works are often characterised by nightmarish and confusing situations.

The tribunal found that Ms Adams resigned as she “could have absolutely no confidence going forward that the respondents would comply with their obligation of trust and confidence towards her.”

Ms Adams has since gone on to work for Beira's Place - a women-only support service for victims of sexual violence, partly funded by JK Rowling.

Ms Rowling is on the board of directors along with former prison governor Rhona Hotchkiss, previous Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, GP Margaret McCartney, and director of For Women Scotland, Susan Smith.

All of the board members have been critical of the Scottish government's effort to reform the Gender Recognition Act.