An employment tribunal recently sided with Sean Corby, a senior ACAS conciliator, and ruled that race and racial equality beliefs are protected under the Equality Act.
What Exactly Happened?
Sean Corby, the claimant in this case, works for ACAS as a conciliator. He describes himself as white and his wife and children as black.
In 2021, Sean Corby posted a few posts on an internal platform that essentially said that critical race theory is “divisive” and that it paints white people in a bad light as they are seen as the root cause of segregation. He further added that he has experienced abuse from both sides.
One of the posts he shared was an article about the impact of anti-racist activism on interracial couples which features him and his wife. He also posted quotes on free speech and claimed that following the footsteps of Martin Luther King is a better approach where people are judged by character and not skin colour.
These posts were seen as problematic by Sean Corby’s colleagues, to the point where they stated they were not comfortable with working with him. An early conciliation took place in August 2022, and while the complaints against him were dismissed, he was still asked to remove a few posts where he criticised the BLM movement.
In September 2022, Sean Corby made a claim against ACAS on the grounds that he was discriminated against based on religion and belief. The case was listed for a final hearing from 4th-6th September 2023.
What The Employment Tribunal Said
The case was heard in Leeds before employment judge Ayre. The main issue in the case was whether Mr Corby’s beliefs about race and racial equality are protected under the Equality Act 2010 and the employment tribunal sided with him.
After much consideration, the ET said that Mr Corby’s beliefs on race are clearly thought of and an important part of his life – given he is married to a black woman and is the father of black children. The ET further said that his beliefs are not just from his own experience but from everything he has read as well.
Additionally, the ET shed light on Mr Corby’s teen years where he lived with another black woman who is still seen like his other mother. This, along with many other instances, gave the ET enough assurance that he spent a lot of time with black people in his life and formed meaningful relationships. The ET also applied the Grainger Test to see if his beliefs were genuinely held and not against human dignity.
Employment Judge Ayre also referred to the Maya Forstater case and pointed out that the only beliefs that are excluded are the ones that are most extreme like Nazism. Furthermore, the ET said that beliefs that are shocking, or even disturbing to others which are not grave forms of hate speech will not be excluded from protection.
The ET concluded by saying, “The claimant’s beliefs relate, in essence, to the best way of eliminating racism in society, and are clearly worthy of respect. They cannot be described as incompatible with human dignity or conflicting with the fundamental rights of others, even if they are not universally shared and were objected to by some of the claimant’s colleagues.”
“Sean Corby’s Beliefs Are Shared by Many”
The Free Speech Union tweeted on the matter expressing their delight at the judgement made by the Employment Tribunal. They also pointed out that this is the first time a judge has made such a ruling and that it is a terrific result.
Free Speech Union say in their tweet:
Toby Young, general secretary of the Free Speech Union while talking to the Times said that Sean Corby’s belief of judging people on their character is sensible and shared by most people. He further added, “His employer should not have taken seriously the vexatious complaints of Sean’s colleagues, who claimed that his quoting Martin Luther King made them feel ‘unsafe’.”
The Free Speech Union have also set up a GoFundMe for people who would like to support Mr Corby and other people like him.