Denise Fahmy v Arts Council England (Case no. 6000042/2022)

June 27th, 2023

PRESS RELEASE: Gender critical beliefs are protected by law. Another victory for women and for common sense.

didlaw Partner Elizabeth McGlone was delighted to work alongside Anya Palmer Counsel of Outer Temple Chambers to support Denise Fahmy in her harassment claim against Arts Council England (ACE).  

In a unanimous judgment of the Leeds Employment Tribunal Ms Fahmy succeeds in her case that she was subjected to harassment for her gender critical beliefs. 

Denise was initially a litigant in person but instructed both didlaw and Ms Palmer shortly before her final Employment Tribunal (ET) hearing in May 2023. Judgment was reserved after the hearing and delivered on 26 June 2023 confirming that Denise’s claim for ‘harassment related to the protected characteristic of religion or belief is well-founded and succeeds’. She was also awarded an uplift to her compensation (which the ET indicated should be in the order of 10%) for ACE’s failure to follow the Acas Code of Practice when it refused Denise the right to appeal the outcome of a Dignity at Work complaint. The exact compensation award will be determined at a remedy hearing which is yet to be listed.  

The background to the case is that Denise was a long-standing employee of ACE. She issued complaints to the Employment Tribunal for harassment and victimisation following harassment on the grounds of her gender critical beliefs at work. Given the untenable circumstances she felt she could no longer work for ACE and resigned before the final ET hearing took place.

The brief factual overview is that Denise had attended an internal Teams meeting where hostile comments were made about people who hold gender critical beliefs. These comments were made during a work discussion about the award (and removal) of a grant to LGB Alliance. Gender critical beliefs are those held by people who believe that sex is real and immutable which was held to be a protected belief in the case of Forstater v CDG. Following this internal meeting (which was hurtful, hostile and intensely toxic) some of Denise’s colleagues circulated a petition with further hostile and intimidating comments contained within it which were aimed at all gender critical people. The petition purported to raise a grievance in respect of the dialogue that had been held in the Teams meeting but in fact tipped over into an act of unwanted harassment.

In response Denise raised a Dignity at Work complaint with ACE highlighting that she considered she had been harassed during the meeting. The petition was clearly aimed at her as she had bravely ‘outed’ herself at the Teams meeting as being someone who holds gender critical beliefs. Her internal complaint was not upheld and contrary to her right to appeal the decision Denise was not given the right to appeal.  

Denise’s other claims for victimisation were not successful. They do however provide important context in the chronology of her claims and demonstrate the kinds of issues that those who hold GC beliefs, predominantly women, are being subjected to in their working environments, some of whom are being hounded out of their jobs.  

Arts Council England is a publicly funded body and is responsible for awarding grants to artistic projects and organisations across the country drawn from taxpayers and national lottery good causes resources. It is unfortunate that in this case an award made by a devolved body (London Community Foundation) was withdrawn for reasons that were based on bias, hostility and mis-information, namely that ACE alleged LGB Alliance was a transphobic organisation.  

You can find more information about the specific facts of Denise’s case on her crowdjustice page where she details the treatment that she was subjected to and the steps she took to fight back.  

Denise instructed Elizabeth McGlone of didlaw alongside Anya Palmer. Elizabeth and Anya are delighted at this outcome which is another step forward in the protection of women’s rights in the workplace. The case highlights the hostility faced by women in the workplace when they seek to express legally held gender critical views that are considered to be transphobic by colleagues.  

We are aware that many women remain fearful to speak out and express their beliefs. This judgment is dedicated to those that do not feel able to speak freely for fear of reprisals in this space.

didlaw is a specialist discrimination practice. Elizabeth has a keen focus on women’s rights in the workplace and is a vocal and fearless advocate for the rights of women. This outcome is welcomed and moves us one step further ahead in shining a spotlight on this unnecessarily controversial and political issue where there is a need for rational and respectful debate. Arguments in this space have been toxic to the point of abuse and hate speech. The right to freedom of speech has also been endangered. Perhaps this judgment will serve as a reminder of the need for reasoned debate around an unnecessarily toxic issue. As the judgment itself states “it has been made nearly impossible to have any kind of reasonable discussion to discover what those shared beliefs might be”. 

You can view the actual judgment here.

For more comment or information on this story please contact Elizabeth McGlone at didlaw by phone on 020 7099 7508 or by email at   

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