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Tribunal Success for Trinity Employment Barrister Acting for The Times


Head of Trinity Chambers’ Employment group, barrister Jane Callan successfully defended The Times newspaper against allegations of transgender discrimination and unfair dismissal in the Edinburgh Employment Tribunal.

In Ms Katherine O’Donnell v Times Newspapers Ltd, Edinburgh Employment Tribunal  4107419/2018, former Night Editor of The Times in Scotland brought claims of discrimination on grounds of gender reassignment, victimisation, harassment and unfair dismissal. Jane Callan successfully defended The Times and following the 21 day high profile hearing in Edinburgh, the Employment Tribunal dismissed all claims against them. Witnesses for the Respondent included the Editor of The Times, John Witherow, and the Deputy Editor, Emma Tucker as well as other senior editorial staff and former staff.

The background to the case was that the Claimant started her employment in London in 2004 working on the national title, by that time she had not transitioned and had not indicated to the Respondent her intention to do so. She transitioned in 2006 and was supported by the Respondent in the workplace.

In May 2012, she asked to be made voluntarily redundant as her family had relocated to Edinburgh but was offered, and accepted on her then current terms and conditions, a transfer to Edinburgh to work on the Scottish edition of The Times. She complained in mid 2014 that she had been unfairly overlooked for an appointment as the caretaker editor of The Times in Scotland whilst the full-time editor stepped down due to ill-health.

In mid 2016 she complained when the Deputy Editor in Scotland post was being filled that she considered she could not put herself forward for that position given the events that occurred 2 years earlier. The Editor asked her to let him know prior to the recruitment window closing if she wished to be considered for the role. She did not do so.

In May 2016, the Claimant alleged that two former senior editors had made transphobic remarks in her presence in November 2013. There was a meeting with management to discuss this and other grievances. The issues were dealt with to her satisfaction and she received a substantial pay rise. She further alleged that her seniority was undermined by her being left off Sunday duty rosters and the incoming Scottish editor failing to meet her before taking up his post.Other allegations included senior staff calling for her to be sacked when she made derogatory remarks on social media about an interview of President Trump conducted by Michael Gove.

The Claimant's allegations of discrimination brought in June 2018 dated back to 2006/7 and ended with allegations relating to her redundancy in early January 2018. She relied heavily upon the journalistic output of The Times which she characterised as "anti-trans" and which she alleged created a culture hostile to trans individuals. She alleged under the editorship of the current editor, John Witherow, that there was an anti-trans agenda pursued by The Times through the alleged distortion of trans issues in its published material and contrary to industry regulatory standards. She relied on this characterisation to argue that the burden of proof shifted to The Times.

The allegations brought into sharp focus Article 10 of the Human Rights Act and the rights of The Times to free speech. The Tribunal accepted that there had been no adverse findings against The Times by the industry’s regulatory body, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) in respect of its transgender coverage. Further details about the case have also been published in The Times.

In addition to being a First-tier Tribunal Judge, Jane is a nationally recognised employment and education law barrister with a focus on discrimination issues and is regularly commended in the leading directories: "She is very good on detail. You know she will always be well prepared." "She has a very good reputation." Chambers & Partners 2019

"Highly experienced in discrimination cases." Legal 500 2019

"highly sought after, exceptionally knowledgeable and great with clients. She has a very good rapport with judges and a very good way of advocating." "I was struck by her very high level of preparedness." Chambers UK 2018

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