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Transgender journalist loses discrimination claim against the Times

Katherine O’Donnell, who was made redundant from Scottish edition, loses tribunal

WT24 Desk

A transgender woman made redundant by the Times has lost an employment tribunal in which she claimed to have experienced discrimination and unfair dismissal, PA Media reports.

Katherine O’Donnell worked as a night editor on the newspaper’s Scottish edition but was made redundant after the office in Scotland was closed and she turned down an offer to relocate to London.

After her redundancy, O’Donnell sued her former employer for discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal, and claimed there was a “toxic environment for trans people” at the newspaper.

But after 19 days of hearings at an employment tribunal in Edinburgh, the judge, Jane Porter, cleared the Times of all the allegations against it. In her judgment, she concluded O’Donnell’s redundancy was not as a result of being a trans woman, a status protected by law.

O’Donnell had claimed there was a culture of discrimination at the Times, calling it a “boys’ club”, but the tribunal found there was insufficient evidence of such a culture and no evidence of dishonesty.

A spokeswoman for the newspaper said: “We are pleased this judgment dismisses all the claims made by the claimant and confirms that the Times took reasonable and appropriate decisions and did not show any anti-transgender bias towards its staff.”

O’Donnell tweeted: “I am disappointed with the judgment of the tribunal in my discrimination and unfair dismissal case against Times Newspapers.

“Working with my barrister, we are considering an appeal. To my witnesses and all who have supported me over the past two years, thank you.”

During the hearing, O’Donnell said she overheard the then deputy editor and deputy head of news refer to murdered trans women in India as “a lifestyle choice” – a comment O’Donnell said made her vomit involuntarily.

However, she did not report it until four and a half years after it was claimed to have happened, and the judge ruled this apparent incident “did not take place as alleged” by the claimant.

The judgment added: “The tribunal found it incredible that an incident such as this would not have been the cause of a complaint, let alone a grievance, to any member of the management staff at the relevant time.”

The Times editor, John Witherow, was called to give evidence at the tribunal and, during cross-examination by the barrister Robin White, was shown dozens of articles and columns that allegedly showed anti-trans bias.

Witherow rejected the claims, describing the newspaper as “supportive” towards trans issues. “The paper produces so much copy that to highlight a few articles can be misleading about what we do,” he said.

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