Harassed, silenced & compared to a racist for my gender critical views

by Prof Jo Phoenix

Harassed, silenced & compared to a racist for my gender critical views

by Prof Jo Phoenix
Prof Jo Phoenix
Case Owner
I'm an academic being harassed and vilified by my colleagues at the Open University for my views on sex and gender.
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Prof Jo Phoenix
Case Owner
I'm an academic being harassed and vilified by my colleagues at the Open University for my views on sex and gender.
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Latest: Jan. 14, 2023

37 weeks to go

Dear supporters, friends and colleagues

It was just under a month ago I posted a short video on twitter and posted an update that summarised the case and where the case 'was at'. Over the last…

Read more

My name is Jo Phoenix. I am Professor of Criminology at the Open University.

I am bringing an employment tribunal claim to hold the OU to account for the public campaign of harassment that has made my working life unbearable, and I really need your support.

My hope is that this case will force universities to protect female academics from the vicious bullying perpetrated by those who disagree with our beliefs on sex and gender; bullying that is designed to silence us and our research.

My Story

When I accepted this role at the OU in 2016, I described it as a love match. I took a massive pay cut to work here, having previously held senior leadership roles including being Dean at Durham University. What's happening to me has broken my heart. 

This position at the OU was my dream job because adult education is personally so important to me. When I was 15, I was raped by two men and then endured a rape trial in 1970s Texas. During this time, I ran away from home and saw more of life than a child should. It was adult education which gave me a way out and allowed me to thrive.

I've been researching sex, gender and justice for two decades and am known around the world for my work. But things started to go horribly wrong at the OU when I expressed views about the silencing of academic debate on trans issues, criticising Stonewall’s influence in universities. I also expressed views that male-bodied prisoners should not be in female prisons, and I set up the Open University Gender Critical Research Network.

As a result, I have been publicly vilified by hundreds of my colleagues in a targeted campaign against members of the Gender Critical Research Network; I have been called transphobic; I have twice been compared to a racist by managers; and I have been silenced and shunned within my department. 

I have been made to feel like a pariah and have become very ill as a result.

These are just a few examples of what has happened:

  • A senior manager told me that I was “like the racist uncle at the Christmas dinner table.” When I started to cry, she suggested that if I couldn’t cope with it she could put me in touch with counselling services.
  • I was instructed not to speak about my research, which includes research on trans rights and the criminal justice system, in departmental meetings.
  • Over 360 of my colleagues signed a public letter condemning the Gender Critical Research Network and calling for the OU to remove all support and funding from the network, alleging that gender critical feminism is “fundamentally hostile to the rights of trans people”. This letter also made demonstrably false and extremely damaging accusations about what was said in a podcast that I participated in.
  • Another public statement by my colleagues published on the OU’s website expressed "dismay" at the establishment of the Gender Critical Research network, accusing members of the network of having made transphobic statements and of choosing the label “gender critical” as “a deliberate provocation to trans communities.”
  • The then Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Representative for my Faculty has published numerous derogatory tweets about gender critical belief, including retweeting a tweet showing my name and photo with a reference to a "transphobic/TERF/GC campaign network".
  • I have been given suspiciously few opportunities at work given my seniority and experience.

The OU has shattered my dreams because it has failed to protect me, despite my repeated pleas for them to remove discriminatory and hate-filled statements that my colleagues have published on the OU’s websites. 

I have been diagnosed with acute PTSD because of this treatment and have been too unwell to work for months.

My case and why I am crowdfunding

We desperately need to show that this type of treatment is unlawful harassment relating to protected gender critical beliefs.

These issues of sex and gender are so important, and we need to be able to talk about and research them without fear of being hounded out of our jobs. I have been contacted by other academics who would like to join the Gender Critical Research Network but who are now too frightened of being publicly smeared as a transphobe to join.

Above all, I am taking this case to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression.

I am crowdfunding so that I can pay for legal expenses to take this case to the Employment Tribunal.

 


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Update 8

Prof Jo Phoenix

Jan. 14, 2023

37 weeks to go

Dear supporters, friends and colleagues

It was just under a month ago I posted a short video on twitter and posted an update that summarised the case and where the case 'was at'. Over the last few months, many new people have donated and many new people have started following me on twitter. 

I thank everyone who has given what they can. I know that times are hard for many and I am very appreciative of every single donation - no matter how large or small. I also thank everyone for the comments they leave. I read them most days and am often surprised and touched by what people say. 

Over the next 37 weeks, I will be tweeting an update or about something of relevance to the ET every Sunday morning. To distinguish those tweets from the rest of my twitter feed (yes, I also think I get a little carried away with twitter from time to time) I will change my twitter handle to Prof Jo Phoenix - CJ and ET update. CJ stands for crowdjustice and not criminal justice, just in case you were wondering. 

Now, a month on, we are still in the process of agreeing the bundle. The stack of documents that we are dealing with is several novels deep (several thousand pages). But we are closer than we were last month. 

That's all for now. If you are on twitter, keep an eye out for my Sunday morning tweets starting on the 23rd January 2023. 

Jo

Update 7

Prof Jo Phoenix

Nov. 23, 2022

Countdown has started

Academic Freedom should not be used as a justification for harassment against Gender Critical academics

A year ago today I left a job and a university I once loved because my colleagues and my employer made it impossible for me to continue to work there. Their harassment and discrimination of me, the indirect sex discrimination that I experienced and my eventual constructive dismissal were a result of my insistence that academics must be able to talk about the importance of sex over gender identity without being cancelled, silenced, harassed, and discriminated against.

It shouldn’t take an employment tribunal to confirm that and yet this is what is now required to protect GC academics.

The countdown to my court date has started properly. The legal battle has a shape and structure, and I can better predict the total cost. Thousands of people have supported my case, but we are not yet at the finishing line, and I need to ask again for your help. Thanks to Maya Forstater's, Allison Bailey's and LGB Alliance cases (all of which cost more than £200,000) I can better predict the overall costs of mine. Thus, I am increasing the target of this CrowdJustice Fund to £180,000. If 4000 people can donate £15.00 each, we will hit the increased target with plenty of time to spare. The court date is only forty-three weeks away and that feels like a long time, but when you receive legal bills for costly work every month, 43 weeks is only 11 more bills away.

What happened to me?

On December 2, 2021 I resigned my post as Professor of Criminology at The Open University because the University’s behaviour had made it impossible for me to remain (for those who do not know about my case, there is a full background story here).

I have spent 25 years of my professional career analysing the intended and unintended consequences of criminal justice policies that seek to protect the vulnerable and punish offenders. I have researched and written about sexual violence and women’s unequal access to justice for all that time. Yet, I was branded a transphobe for doing things like: criticising Stonewall, believing its guidance has produced a chilling effect on academic freedom (by signing two Letters to the Editor here and here); saying that male prisoners who identify as women have different needs than females in prison (here and here) and  starting a research network dedicated to exploring the circumstances in which sex matters more than gender identity (here).

I attended meetings where it was made clear that anyone who held GC beliefs was not welcome. I experienced - for the first time in my life - that unique quality of silence that says very loudly "you are not part of our community of the good and progressive". I listened on as my union colleagues likened people who shared GC beliefs to holocaust deniers and our beliefs as responsible for genocide. I was told by a colleague that sharing the story of the Reindorf Report (exonerating me of transphobia and confirming that my cancellation by the University of Essex 18 months previously was unlawful) was not appropriate for ‘the good news’ section of a School-wide newsletter to all staff because it might upset some people and had already been covered in the news.

I have written about why the attacks and the open letters and statements that were posted by more than 360 of my colleagues after I formed The Open University Gender Critical Research network was so wrong here. When I asked my university to do something about them, the University declined stating that the letters and statements fell within the remit of academic freedom – even though they were making utterly vexatious claims about transphobia, attacking me and my reputation, encouraging mobbing behaviour against me and creating an extraordinarily hostile environment. Those that created that environment did so with impunity and ultimately, their hostility made me unwell.

I know what it is to be silenced, directly and indirectly and gaslit in an environment where colleagues claimed they supported academic freedom at the same time as arguing that cancelling an academic and denouncing people as transphobic for holding gender critical beliefs were legitimate, indeed, necessary actions within a university.

I also know only too well that working in a university where it is repeatedly stated that your beliefs are transphobic or anti-trans does limit academic freedom and is degrading. It makes someone, even someone with years of experience like me, worried and fearful about speaking freely at work.


Why is winning this legal case so important? 

Winning this case is very important because it will show that universities have a responsibility to protect staff with gender critical beliefs from harassment. It will (hopefully) mean that going forward, not sharing the beliefs of some (or even many) of your colleagues on the issues of sex and gender does not mean that you must endure name-calling and other hostilities or that this type of conduct falls within academic freedom: it doesn’t. If we win, it will show that many of the tactics used to silence GC academics are unlawful.

Winning this case will also get justice for me: an academic, a lesbian who was hounded out of a university I loved, doing a job I was very good at. 

The legal team who will help us win are:

Annie Powell  


Elizabeth George 

Naomi Cunningham 


Ben Cooper KC

What questions will the Tribunal consider?

On 2 October 2023, the case will be tried in Watford Employment Tribunal. I am claiming harassment, discrimination, victimisation, and constructive dismissal. The Open University are claiming that my interpretation of what happened to me is incorrect and that some of the things I said happened, did not. The tribunal will hear evidence and decide whether The Open University has acted unlawfully. I will be cross-examined for 2 days and The Open University has said it will call up to 18 witnesses.

Broadly the questions the Tribunal will consider are:

Harassment Relating to Belief

Did The Open University or employees of the OU:

Call me a racist uncle; act in a discriminatory way in departmental meetings; tell me not to speak about my research, my treatment by the University of Essex or accusations that I am transphobic; compare me to a discredited criminologist; withhold work opportunities; sign or publish various online letters, tweets, retweets or issue a variety of statements about the OUGCRN or published by LSE Gender Studies Department? Did OU employees and moderators fail to remove harassing material from OU staff forums? Did the OU fail to produce an outcome or date for the outcome of my grievance? And if all these things took place, were their actions related to my GC beliefs? Did they violate my dignity? Did they create a hostile environment? Was it connected to my employment relationship?

Direct Discrimination

If those things did happen, did I receive less favourable treatment than people who do not hold GC views?

Indirect Sex Discrimination

Did The OU treat my complaint less seriously than they would treat other complaints of harassment and because more women than men are likely to hold GC beliefs, does this amount to indirect discrimination of women.

Victimisation

Was suspending the grievance once I resigned a form of victimisation and did I suffer as a result?

Constructive Dismissal

If found, was the treatment I received a form of constructive dismissal?

What can you do to help?

My original estimate of the total cost of this case was based on a 10-day hearing. We already know it will be 15 days minimum, with more to hear the losses if I win. Right now, we are deep in the process of disclosure (the part of the case when both sides must list and exchange all the documents they have that are relevant to the case).

For their work, CrowdJustice takes a commission and there is also VAT to cover. The financial cost of taking these cases – particularly ones that set a line in the sand – is enormous. Frankly, good legal teams are expensive and the amount of work that needs to be done is huge.

It is in this context – a top-notch legal team, an extended time, and previous cases by which we can measure likely cost – that I have decided to increase my target to £180,000. This case is very important to the future of our universities. My legal team has already processed several thousand pages of evidence and will need to agree the bundle before December 2022. I get legal bills once a month.

3862 of you have already made 4572 pledges (the average of which was £27). If 4000 people give £15 each (which I appreciate will be too much for many people at the moment) we will raise the additional £58,000 I think I am going to need. So far, your generosity has meant that the bills are paid as they come in. We are on the countdown. Only 43 weeks and 11 more bills to come before I sit in Watford Employment Tribunal and face my harassers and former employer.

Academics need to be able to discuss where sex might matter more than gender identity. Will you support me (once again) by pledging £15.00 so that we can establish this in case law?


Update 6

Prof Jo Phoenix

Oct. 16, 2022

Exactly 1 Year On

Dear Friends, Supporters and Contributors

It's a year ago today I launched this crowdjustice fund to support my case against The Open University. What a year! You helped me obtain the funds to go forward in record time. My story at The Open University ended in December 2021 when I was forced to resign because they made my job untenable after failing to deal with my complaint about bullying and harassment for 6 months and failing to provide me with any sense of when I might be expected to hear the result. 

Then, I secured a job at Reading University and yesterday I attended the open day to recruit students to Reading's first B.Sc. (hons) Criminology. 

There have been successes as well this year - Maya Forstater won her case of discrimination against her for her gender critical beliefs. Allison Bailey won her's against her chambers. In the course of that case, the employment tribunal judges accepted that at times, some transgender rights activists' approach and language have been hostile to lesbians (especially the campaign about cotton ceilings). We have also seen the case Mermaids brought against LGB Alliance - the outcome of which has not yet been heard. This means that case law is slowly building up in a way that defends people with gender critical beliefs from degrading and hostile, discriminatory treatment. 

My case will, hopefully, establish once and for the line between academic debate and harassment. 

The date for the employment tribunal is 2nd October 2023. Although I have not provided an update since June, I have been hard at work. This month is the deadline for disclosures. To that end, I have handed over (literally) hundreds of pages of evidence that go back several years. Bundles will not be exchanged until the end of the month and at that time I will see the OU's evidence.  

Once I've got a sense of the complete bundle of evidence, I will update you further.  

For now, this note is by way of saying thank you for your continued support. The case is moving along well.  The evidence is looking strong. It's been a tough year and there is another tough year ahead. Thank you for your help. 

Jo Phoenix

Update 5

Prof Jo Phoenix

July 22, 2022

15 days face to face in Watford Employment Tribunal in October 2023

On June 13th, I virtually attended my ‘case management preliminary hearing’. These are administrative hearings overseen by an Employment Judge where all parties deal with the issues that need clarifying, agree a schedule for all the various processes that happen prior to the actual hearing and agree a date for the hearing. In cases involving discrimination, it is not atypical for employers to ask for a preliminary hearing to establish whether the protected status that the claimant is claiming (in my case protected belief) falls within the Equality Act 2010. Fortunately, The Open University have agreed that my beliefs are covered so there is no need for such a preliminary hearing.

My case will be a face to face hearing that starts on 2nd October 2023 in Watford Employment Tribunal. The Judge reminded everyone present that Employment Tribunals are public hearings which means members of the public can attend. Once I find out a little more about this and we get closer to the date, I will provide an update that includes instructions on how to attend if you are interested in watching the proceedings.  

The less good news. What I thought (and budgeted for) would be a total of 10 days of hearing is now scheduled for 15 days, largely because The Open University are calling 18 witnesses.

18 witnesses.

The present schedule is that I am likely to be on the stand for 2 days. The Open University will be presenting their 18 witnesses across 7 days of hearing.

We are a long way out, the schedule can change and the final ‘cast list’ can change too.

The last few weeks has had me thinking about access to justice. As far as I understand it, employment tribunals were designed to be a way of providing employees access to justice for unfair treatment by being a low cost court. Yet, for me, all I see is that The Open University has a total income of £561.5M and an adjusted operating surplus of £52.1 million. Deep pockets. It got me thinking about whether and to what extent huge organisations like these – perhaps even The Open University – consciously deploy a strategy of economic intimidation against claimants. As I see it, the cost of this legal battle is small fry in the grand scheme of The Open University’s budget but for me the prospects that the tribunal is going to cost even more because it is now 15 days is worrying.

Without your donations, I would not have been able to bring this case. Without your donations, we wouldn’t be able to establish in law where the line between harassment and discrimination and academic freedom is. There is still time, but I am asking once again for donations. It makes sense to me that The Open University and their lawyers might be watching this crowdjustice fund. It would make sense to me that their lawyers may well be making calculations based on their assessment of how much this case will cost me and what stomach they think I will have to take the risk that the support is not there. Please help me show them (just in case they were thinking about it) that economic intimidation is not a strategy that is going to work in this case.

Update 4

Prof Jo Phoenix

Feb. 9, 2022

NEWSFLASH - THE BEST LEGAL TEAM IN THE BUSINESS

Two months ago I resigned from the Open University citing constructive dismissal. Five weeks ago I started a new job at the University of Reading. It’s been such a hectic time, but it’s important that I share some news with you.

Your generous support has meant that the Crowd Justice fund now stands in at in excess of £100,00. This means that Ben Cooper QC and Naomi Cunningham will be representing me. Ben Cooper represented Maya Forstater in the Employment Appeals Tribunal and helped to secure the ruling that ‘gender critical’ beliefs are ‘worthy of respect in a democratic society’. Because of that ruling gender critical beliefs now fall under the protection of the Equality Act 2010.   Naomi Cunningham is a member of the amazing team that helps produce Legal Feminist. She gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee on reform of the Gender Recognition Act in February 2021, and was instructed in Fair Play For Women’s judicial review of Office for National Statistics guidance on the sex question in the 2021 Census. She has nearly 30 years’ experience of employment and discrimination law and currently sits on the board for Sex Matters. My solicitor, Annie Powell, is on maternity leave but Elizabeth George (from Leigh Day) has stepped into her shoes. It is impossible for me to convey the sense of trust and confidence I have in my legal team.

I still find it incredibly difficult to take on board everything that happened at the OU, even two months on. Shortly after I resigned the University wrote and told me that they had suspended the investigation into my grievance of harassment and bullying pending outcome of the employment tribunal, the tribunal that Ben Cooper and Naomi Cunningham will be representing me at. From what I understand, this is not normal practice. It is usual for grievance investigations to carry on and be concluded regardless of any case lodged in the employment tribunal.

Before starting my new job I returned to my old office at the Open University to clear my desk and pick up all my many books. It was a cold day and one I was not looking forward to. As it happened no one was on campus. I was relieved because I felt sick at the thought of coming face to face with of my harassers. After all, it is one thing lodging a claim in the employment tribunal. It is an altogether different thing seeing the people that broke your heart, tried to wreck your professional career and severely damaged your mental health and wellbeing. People tell me I am brave. I don’t feel it because facing these people on that day was something I just did not feel I could manage.

I used the lift to ferry my books to my car. In the lift was a sign stating that the University does not tolerate bullying or harassment. Closed in that lift, with my memories of everything that had happened left me feeling angry because the bullying and harassment of me had been allowed to continue unchecked. On the upper floors the lift doors open to a view of the legacy garden, a formal garden where alumni and supporters of the OU are remembered with plaques or flowers or plants. When I arrived at the OU as Chair of Criminology in 2016 I was blown away by the garden because it was a living embodiment of the trust, respect and affection that the OU commanded. I felt so proud. But, on my last day there, that pride turned into bitter, aching sad disappointment. To me, the actions and inactions of current academic employees and managers at the OU have betrayed what the OU ought to have stood for – being a place that exists for the benefit of all.

The contrast between my final days at the OU and my arrival at the University of Reading could not be greater. At University of Reading there were welcome drinks with colleagues and staff; Security, HR and Media have rolled out the red carpet to make sure I feel supported and enabled to do my job. This has underscored a very simple fact. It is the decisions and actions of managers and colleagues in universities that ultimately protect us from harassment and defend academic freedom. My hope is that my employment tribunal will provide case law to force managers to manage the way that particular groups in are using harassment to shut down academic discussion.

Best of all, I am writing again. I am writing about why sex matters in criminology. Finally. After two years, I finally feel able to offer a university my skills and produce the work that I have been paid to produce. 

As we stand today, my outline case – updated to include constructive dismissal – is lodged with the Employment Tribunal. We are awaiting the outline defence and (fingers crossed) we will shortly have a case management conference and will know the date for the full hearing.

Until then, please do continue to support my case. To the best of my knowledge, the estimate of the total cost being around £150K is about right. With your help we can get this over the line. With my legal team we have, quite literally, the *best* possible chance of winning. And, the win is such an important one: it will force universities to protect academics like me.

Update 3

Prof Jo Phoenix

Dec. 11, 2021

Adding Constructive Dismissal To My Claim against OU

Last week I announced, with the heaviest of hearts, that I resigned my post, with immediate effect as Chair in Criminology at The Open University. On December 2nd, 2021, I ended my 25 year long relationship with that institution. I also announced my pleasure at taking up a new post as Professor of Criminology at Reading University from January 1, 2022.  

I am now adding constructive dismissal to my claim against The Open University.

The failure to take seriously my grievance

On 24th June 2021 I submitted a grievance detailing the bullying and harassment campaign that forms some of my claim against the OU. As you know, I was labelled me a transphobe because of my gender critical beliefs, called a racist uncle at the dinner table and colleagues published several open statements and letters asking my employer to discriminate against me. 

You will also know that the harassment campaign took a serious toll on my mental health, my reputation, and my ability to work since I was being shunned and vilified by my colleagues. 

Because of this I asked the university time and again to expedite the grievance - I needed an outcome if I was to have any chance of returning to my full duties. Despite my pleading I was told on the 12 November 2021, nearly 6 months after submitting my grievance, that I might get an outcome before Christmas, but then again I might not. Finding out that there was no scheduled date for the outcome of my grievance felt like the ultimate betrayal by the university I loved. Once my initial shock and grief subsided, I knew that my trust and faith in The Open University was misplaced. Asking me to wait for more than six months to resolve a very serious grievance is an utterly unreasonable demand. Since I resigned, I was informed that The Open University has suspended the grievance investigation and will not provide an outcome until after the Tribunal, despite best practice guides. But there is more.

My Employer’s Public Statements

In the last 6 months, The Open University has also issued several statements of its own - placed on internal SharePoint pages, shared externally on social media by my harassers, and more recently on an external facing news page - that make its position clear. In the first statement the OU distances itself from the research network (and thereby me and other members) stating it is a “very sensitive topic” and offers support for trans and non-binary community, ending with a comment that the network is not institutionally endorsed.

In the second statement the vice chancellor states that the network (thereby me) has caused “hurt and distress”. To suggest that the academic work I do causes distress and harm whilst failing to acknowledge the distress and reputation damage done to me by more than 360 OU employees highlights the shockingly unequal treatment afforded me by my employer.

A third statement was published on the OU news page on 10th November. It stated that “The Vice-Chancellor's Executive found that the formation of the GCRN was compatible with academic freedom, while also acknowledging that some staff found the content of the group's work to be challenging or concerning”. The implication is clear. It is the GCRN (and by definition the network’s members including me) that are the problem. It felt like a gut punch.

At no point had The Open University acknowledged in these statements its legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to protect gender critical academics from harassment. At no point has it acknowledged the hurt or distress caused to me. These absences are not a mistake. They are the result of an active choice. Clearly my distress is not worth mentioning - even though it is out in the public domain and so they would not be breaching any confidentiality to acknowledge it. When my employer broadcast its shockingly unequal treatment of my distress on an external news page, my trust in them shattered.  

So far, through the exceptional generosity of all of you, there is now a fighting fund of just over £90,000. This sounds like a massive amount, but the OU has deep pockets and £90,000 will be swallowed up very quickly if I am to get the best representation. But I know that this case will help to establish a line in the sand and make it clear that baseless accusations of transphobia simply for standing up for the rights of women is harassment especially when made in an academic context. For that reason, I am bringing together one of the most exciting legal teams to fight this case which means a reluctant change in the Crowd Justice target to £150,000. This is a HUGE ask. So many have already given so much. And it is Christmas. If you cannot give now, please make a note to give in January or February when finances are a little easier. I have a long way to go and a hard legal battle to fight. Any and all help and support you can offer will go to ease my burden.


Update 2

Prof Jo Phoenix

Nov. 30, 2021

Not strictly related to my case against the OU

Friends, colleagues and supports

Forgive this intrusion. This is not an update on my case.

Some of you will already know about my experiences of being unlawfully cancelled and blacklisted by the University of Essex because some staff and some students claimed that I was transphobic. A month afterwards, Prof Rosa Freedman (University of Reading) was also unlawfully treated.

There is a documentary being screened on Channel 4 this Thursday (2nd December) at 10:00 pm. It is called 'Cancelled'. It focuses, at least in part, on what happened to the two of us. 

We both took part in the filming. The presenter is Richard Bacon and the Director is Tom Jenner. 

I have not seen the documentary, but I think the director understood many of the issues. Fingers crossed anyway! 

Thank you once again for your support. I will be putting together a proper update on the case some time next week. 

Best wishes

Jo

Update 1

Prof Jo Phoenix

Nov. 3, 2021

Hitting Milestones

Friends, Supporters, Colleagues

Yesterday was a milestone. You managed to raise more than £80K in only 17 days. Seventeen days. Four hundred and 8 hours. That is £196.08 per hour. This is what you all did, and you did it to support me bringing my employer to an employment tribunal.

Last evening, I was obsessively refreshing my various social media feeds. I could feel the joy of everyone in the comments and the retweets, in the likes and shares.

What an amazing thing you have done.

I mean this without any false modesty: I am humbled and touched beyond measure. I will do my very best to honour your donations, your support, and your hopes.

In the days before deciding to go to tribunal, I had to work out the minimum amount I needed to raise so that I could take the case all the way to Tribunal. That amount was £80,000. When I discussed this with my partner (the amazing Pj), she told me she would support my decision whatever I chose but she believed that we ought to go for it. She has, after all, been the one at home listening to my frustrations and anger and my deep pain. She was also the one who picked me up during the summer when I was struggling with PTSD and couldn’t sleep or concentrate.

Few people will realise what a decision like that means: we decided to gamble our house. If the crowdjustice fund raiser didn’t provide enough money, or didn’t provide any, we knew we would have to mortgage our house and risk our financial future. This is how committed we are to fighting this battle.

Your support and your donations – from the £1 and £2 donations (and I know how much that can be) to those who have given astonishing sums – mean my partner and I can rest assured knowing that we can take this case all the way to the final hearing without jeopardising our house.

I will be chatting with my lawyer over the next few days. We will be submitting the claim to the Employment Tribunal this week. We will also discuss whether another stretch target is needed.

My hope: to get, quite literally, the best legal team in the country. My aim is to do everything in my power to make sure that your generosity is honoured and that we win.

For now, my partner and I thank you. What an amazing thing you have all done.

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