A trans woman who worked as an editor in the Scottish newsroom of The Times newspaper before being made redundant last year is suing the publication alleging “transphobic” discrimination.
Katherine O’Donnell had been employed at the newspaper for 14 years, during which she transitioned, before being made redundant in January 2018, as first reported by Buzzfeed News.
O’Donnell claims she has been subjected to transphobic discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal on the grounds of gender reassignment in a case that may force media organisations to reconsider how their coverage affects employees members of communities protected from discrimination under employment law.
The Edinburgh Employment Tribunal held a first hearing in the six-week case on May 1.
“My desire to see fair and balanced coverage of trans people and issues in the [Times newspaper] has led to me being viewed as difficult or troublesome.”
— Katherine O’Donnell
According to Buzzfeed News, in her witness statement O’Donnell recalled several instances over the years in which she protested the newspaper’s coverage of transgender issues and felt her career was hindered because of it.
“My desire to see fair and balanced coverage of trans people and issues in the [Times newspaper] has led to me being viewed as difficult or troublesome,” she said in her statement.
She also recalled how she felt physically sick following a news meeting in which senior editors made disparaging comments about the murder of a trans woman in India.
“The callous and dehumanising nature of the comments, however intended, left me feeling as if the floor had opened up beneath me and that I had fallen into a reality in which what these men really thought of me and people like me was revealed,” she said in her statement, quoted in BuzzFeed.
The Times and its sister publication The Sunday Times are among the publications who regularly offer negative coverage of transgender issues.
In January, The Sunday Times had to publish two corrections related to its coverage of trans issues. A correction on January 6 followed an Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) ruling against a “misleading” article published in July that suggested trans people were not free to use public toilets aligned with their gender identity—which is, instead, a right enshrined in the Equality Act 2010.
On January 14, the newspaper published a correction of a story dated October 2017 claiming that transgender children’s charity Mermaids is subject to a court order banning it from contact with a child—no such court order, in fact, existed.
The Times denies O’Donnell’s redundancy was a matter of discrimination.
A spokesperson for the publication 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.”