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British newspaper sued by former editor over ‘transphobic work environment’

British newspaper sued by former editor over ‘transphobic work environment’

Katherine O'Donnell suing the Times for discrimination

A former editor at The Times is suing the British newspaper for transphobic discrimination, harassment, victimization and unfair dismissal.

Katherine O’Donnell was night editor of the Scottish edition of the Times when she was made redundant in 2018. The Times employed O’Donnell for 14 years, during which she transitioned.

O’Donnell alleges many senior members of staff bullied her during her time at the newspaper. She says editors blocked promotions, pay rises, and bullied her.

An Edinburgh Employment Tribunal heard the evidence during the first-hearing of the six-week case on 1 May.

O’Donnell also cites several occasions where she protested The Times’ coverage of trans issues, according to Buzzfeed News. She feels her career suffered because of it.

She said in her statement provided by her lawyer: ‘As a trans woman, I was subject to horrible discrimination and had to endure the Times adopting an increasingly hostile stance towards trans individuals.

‘I believe, as part o that, my redundancy in 2019, which appears to me to make no business sense, was motivated by a desire to be rid of me as a trans woman.’

The Times newspaper and trans issues 

O’Donnell comments on multiple stories over her tenure where she flagged the coverage of trans people. Buzzfeed reports she emailed current editor John Witherow after ‘six negative inaccurate pieces about trans people appeared in the Times within two weeks.’

These include a column by then-Enivornment Secretary Michael Gove with alleged ‘factual mistakes’. As well as a story supposedly framing a scientific study as if it was written by a former employee of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, when it was written for an ‘evangelical Christian magazine’.

However, The Times deny all of O’Donnell’s claims. A spokesperson told Buzzfeed News: ‘This matter is subject to an employment tribunal, which at this stage has only heard the evidence of the claimant.

‘The Times is rigorously defending its case that the redundancy was not a matter of discrimination. We cannot comment further at this time.’

If O’Donnell wins the case, it could have dramatic effects on the coverage of minority groups from news sources. It could mean that under the Equality Act 2010, negative coverage of LGBTI people, BAME people, disabled people, and those from different faiths could constitute as a hostile working environment.

See also

What The Times newspaper got so wrong about trans kids and why it’s dangerous

Gay journalist at The Times makes transphobic and biphobic comments