A Christian doctor was recently dismissed for refusing to address transgender patients by their chosen pronoun. Nadjia Zychowicz reports on the Employment Tribunal’s subsequent ruling.
An Employment Tribunal (ET) has found that a doctor engaged to carry out health assessments for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was not discriminated against on the grounds of religion or belief after losing his job for refusing to address transgender patients by their chosen pronoun.
The Case: Mackereth v The Department for Work and Pensions and others
Dr Mackereth is a Christian who, as part of his religious beliefs, does not believe in transgenderism.
The DWP's policy is that transgender people should be addressed and referred to by their preferred pronoun and name. Dr Mackereth disclosed that when consulting with people who were contemplating, undergoing or had undergone gender reassignment, he would not use the pronoun of that person's choice.
Dr Mackereth's manager met with him and asked him to clarify if he would address an individual by their chosen pronoun if that did not match the pronoun usually attributed to their birth sex. Dr Mackereth confirmed that due to his religious beliefs he was unable to address transgender people by their chosen pronoun. Dr Mackereth was told that if he refused to follow the policy he would be unable to work with clients on a face-to-face basis, a required element of his role.
Dr Mackereth's manager then wrote to him to further clarify whether or not he would be willing to follow the DWP's policy and the training that he had been given, also offering additional help and support. This letter made it clear that if Dr Mackereth continued to refuse to follow the policy, that his contract would be terminated.
Subsequently Dr Mackereth's contract was terminated and he brought various claims of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.
Why the ET found that there was no discrimination
The ET accepted that Dr Mackereth did genuinely hold the religious beliefs as asserted and that his right to hold those beliefs was protected. However, the right to manifest a religion or belief is subject to the protection of the rights and freedoms of others and the manner in which he chose to manifest those beliefs, i.e. refusing to refer to a transgender person by their chosen pronouns, titles or styles would constitute unlawful discrimination or harassment under the Equality Act 2010.
The ET also held that any person who refused to follow the policy would have been treated in the same way as Dr Mackereth, therefore the treatment was not because of his beliefs and therefore not discriminatory.
All of Dr Mackereth's discrimination claims failed. He has expressed that he intends to appeal the decision.
This case is an example of where the right for someone to manifest their religion or belief will be restricted to protect the dignity of others.
Employers should ensure that they implement equal opportunities policies and training to reduce the risk of any discriminatory behaviour in the workplace.