A school worker claiming that her Christian beliefs were the basis of the discrimination she experienced wins her right to appeal.
In this case, following a controversial Facebook post, 47-year-old Kristie Higgs was dismissed from her role for gross misconduct. The post made in 2018 contained her thoughts and criticisms on teaching LGBTQ+ relationships in primary schools.
After the fact, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, she brought her former employer to an employment tribunal.
Through this case, it is understood that the decision is based on the Equality Act 2010. Within this act, religion is a protected characteristic. Thus, Mrs Higgs’ stance that her dismissal was due to her Christian beliefs is what granted her the right to appeal.
School Worker Dismissed for Christian Beliefs?
Mrs Higgs’ case began when she took to Facebook to post her criticisms of teaching LGBTQ+ relationships in primary schools. In the post, she described the plans to teach primary school students about LGBTQ+ relationships as “a vicious form of totalitarianism.”
She outlined her concerns on the breach of Christian beliefs within the post, accompanied by a link to a petition to “stop LGBT indoctrination.”
An anonymous complaint was made to the school which led to Mrs Higgs getting suspended. Following a disciplinary hearing, she was dismissed for gross misconduct. The school explains that this decision was made due to her choice of language in her Facebook posts.
However, Mrs Higgs did not share the same view. She believes that she has been discriminated against based on her Christian beliefs.
She then took her employer to an employment tribunal in 2020 which determined that her religion is a protected characteristic, but the dismissal was lawful.
Unsatisfied with the outcome, her lawyers appealed the decision to call for a new employment tribunal hearing. She has now won her right to appeal, with a hearing expected later this year.
What are Protected Characteristics?
Indeed, in Mrs Higgs’ case, her Christian beliefs are a determining factor as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
But, what exactly are protected characteristics?
Protected characteristics are a set of characteristics listed under the Equality Act 2010. As a result, these characteristics protect individuals from discrimination.
According to the UK Government, protected characteristics include:
- Gender reassignment
- Marital or civil partnership status
- Being pregnant or on maternity leave
- Race – includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Further, these characteristics protect from discrimination in situations such as:
- In the workplace
- In education
- Being a consumer
- Using public services
- Buying or renting property
- Being a member or guest of a private club or association
Further, individuals are also protected from discrimination if they are associated with someone with a protected characteristic, as well as in support of another’s claim.
Reflecting on the Case and Protected Characteristics
Overall, understanding what protected characteristics are helps gain a clear view of Mrs Higgs’ case.
Thus, the decision to grant her the right to appeal based on her Christian beliefs aligns with what has been outlined as protected characteristics. Employers must be aware of what is considered a protected characteristic.
On top of educating the workforce on the matter, preventing discrimination will also require mutual respect. Fostering an inclusive workplace will require an active role from employers to maintain a balanced, supportive and respectful environment.
Overall, there should be a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination, in any form. More about religious or philosophical belief discrimination can be found on the Redmans Solicitors Website.