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In its biggest victory to date, the Free Speech Union has helped a civil servant get a £100,000 settlement after she was forced out of her department for raising the alarm about its embrace of Critical Race Theory and Gender Identity Ideology. (The Telegraph has the story.)

Anna Thomas, a 32 year-old single mother, was a work coach in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who made a whistleblowing complaint about an all-staff memo from the Permanent Secretary saying he wanted the DWP to become an “anti-racist organisation” in the wake of George Floyd’s death. This was followed by materials being distributed across the Department, via an “anti-racism hub”, asking white employees to “assume” they were racist and quoting Ibram X Kendi’s dictum in How to be an Anti-Racist that it’s not enough to be non-racist, you need to be “anti-racist”. This is one of the core tenets of Critical Race Theory. Anna also complained about the promotion of Stonewall-inspired Gender Identity Ideology in a departmental resource called “sexual orientation and language”. At the time, the DWP was a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme.

Anna told her managers she was worried that the DWP’s endorsement of these controversial theories was a breach of the Civil Service Code requiring them to be politically impartial and could lead to discrimination against white people. For this she was issued with a final written warning. As Anna feared, the promotion of these ideologies led to unfair treatment of members of the public – she was later asked to help the Department organise some recruitment sessions for the Metropolitan Police which excluded heterosexual white men.

When Anna raised a whistleblowing complaint, pointing out that this was discriminatory and probably a breach of the Equality Act 2010, she was placed under investigation. After a gruelling, six-month process, in which she was told her comments in the internal chat group had caused “offence”, Anna was fired for gross misconduct.

Luckily, Anna is a member of the FSU and we were able to pull together a legal team to represent her, including our Chief Legal Counsel Dr Bryn Harris and the employment barrister Spencer Keen. With their help, Anna brought a case against the DWP in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, belief discrimination and harassment. Just before that was due to come to court, the DWP made a settlement offer of £100,000, which Anna accepted.

The DWP has refused to admit any wrongdoing, but in the run-up to the hearing it shared a note with Anna’s team from a departmental behavioural scientist saying that in her view Anna was right and the promotion of Critical Race Theory via the “anti-racism hub” was political and inappropriate. In addition, the DWP has since ended its relationship with Stonewall, implicitly accepting that Anna was right about that too.

FSU General Secretary Toby Young says: “Anna’s case shows how little tolerance there is in the Civil Service for anyone who challenges the progressive agenda of the people running the departments. Whitehall activists are constantly going after those they consider their political enemies because they’ve supposedly breached the Civil Service Code, but they should look for the beam in their own eyes. That Code requires them to be politically impartial, but these days that’s a principle more honoured in the breach than the observance.”

Bryn Harris, the FSU’s Chief Legal Counsel, says: “Anna was treated grossly unfairly by the DWP, with severe consequences for her health and career. She showed heroic moral courage in exposing wrongdoing by public servants, with the help of the FSU and, crucially, the specialist employment barrister Spencer Keen. A true whistleblower, Anna fought not just for herself but for all of us in upholding the key constitutional norm of civil service impartiality. The DWP’s promotion of a radical political agenda was unlawful and unconstitutional. For the DWP then to dismiss Anna for doing the right thing and speaking out was a betrayal of the standards we expect of our public servants. We would like the Government to investigate why the career of an articulate and intelligent young woman was destroyed in this way, leading to a pay-out of £100,000 of taxpayers’ money.”

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