Bad faith at work

Here’s a simple question. What’s the purpose of anti-discrimination legislation?

Is it (a) to protect vulnerable people from discrimination, for example in employment, education or health care? Or is it (b) to enable people to be howling arseholes to vulnerable people?

If you answered (b), you may be a religious extremist.

I’ll preface this with my usual disclaimer: #notallchristians. This isn’t about Christians. It’s about arseholes.

An industrial tribunal has ruled against a disability assessor who wanted to be an arsehole to transgender people. The assessor refused to use trans people’s correct pronouns in defiance of DWP rules and the Equality Act and would rather lose their job than treat people with basic politeness.

The man goes by the title and name of Dr David Mackereth, but as he believes you should be able to call people what you like based on your sincerely held beliefs, I believe that I should call him Mrs Janice McBigotface and give her female pronouns. I sincerely believe that I can be an arsehole too!

Mrs McBigotface was represented by the Christian Legal Centre, whose business is based on representing some of the world’s worst people and losing in court. In the meantime, however, they get lots of headlines that distort the facts of the case and feed into a fictional narrative of Christianity under attack from political correctness gone mad.

This was no exception: for example, newspapers talked of Mrs McBigotface’s refusal “to refer to ‘any 6 foot tall bearded man’ as ‘madam’” in her meetings with DWP supervisors; as the tribunal notes, that exciting quote wasn’t used in any meetings and didn’t appear in any documents or testimony until a year later, by which point the claimant was being coached by the CLC. That was a year after the first lot of press coverage, which clearly wasn’t hysterical enough.

Was Janice “interrogated about her beliefs” as the coverage and her submission claimed? No. Was she asked to “renounce her beliefs”? No. Were there any discussions about six-foot bearded ladies? No. Was she even suspended for her behaviour? No: she stopped coming to work because she “felt too distracted” by the pressure of being asked to be polite to people: “in no sense could that be construed” as a suspension. The tribunal called the claimant “a poor witness whose perception of events was skewed”.

The verdict, which is linked in the BBC story, is perfectly clear. The law protects you from discrimination; it does not enable you to be a complete prick to other people and escape the consequences.

Mrs McBigotface refused to call people by their pronouns, which is a very basic courtesy, in an environment where people are already feeling scared and stressed. That refusal continued even when people had legally changed their sex to female on all official documentation, and McBigotface appears to have taken some satisfaction in talking about  how she was going to lose her job for it.

The impression the tribunal’s notes gives is that Mrs McBigotface was a kind of DWP Ricky Gervais, deliberately misgendering trans people and then, when someone said “Janice, maybe you should stop being such a dick to people, you’ll end up losing your job”, saying “That’s what the PC woke police want, isn’t it? They want to martyr me! But I shall stand proud against the forces of evil and continue to be a total dick to trans people, just like Jesus probably was, or something!”

According to Twitter, finding that it’s okay and legal to sack someone for breaking the law and being a prick to vulnerable people “is just like the Nazis”, “profoundly disturbing” and “a shameful case of religious persecution”.

No it isn’t. It’s much simpler than that. People’s right to religious belief is subject to article 9.2 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The tribunal found that by refusing to treat trans people with respect and then demanding an unworkable and offensive triage system for trans clients, the claimant was infringing those rights and freedoms.

It’s really very simple. If  you don’t want to be sacked for being a dick to people, don’t be a dick to people.