Gillian Philip, 59, is appealing against an employment tribunal ruling that determined she was not a “worker” and, therefore, could not be discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010. Philip claims she was let go from her role at a book packaging business named Working Partners and the publisher HarperCollins due to her support for JK Rowling’s views on transgender issues.
Philip had publicly supported Rowling, who has been involved in debates surrounding transgender rights, by tweeting “#IStandWithJKRowling” back in 2020. Rowling had earlier sparked debate by questioning the term “people who menstruate”.
Employed under the pseudonym Erin Hunter, Philip was part of a writing team responsible for several popular animal fantasy series, including Warrior Cats, Survivors, and Bravelands. She argues that she was dismissed from the Erin Hunter team for her public support of Rowling.
After tweeting her support, Philip alleges she received numerous threats and abusive messages. In a defiant response, she later tweeted: “Bring it on, homophobes and lesbian-haters,” which led to even more social media uproar.
In reaction to the public complaints, James Noble, the managing editor of Working Partners, had responded by stating that the worlds created by Erin Hunter aim to be inclusive for all readers, implying that Philip’s views were not aligned with this goal.
Philip, who contested her dismissal at an employment tribunal last April, is now appealing the ruling in Edinburgh. Her legal advisor, Shah Qureshi of law firm Irwin Mitchell, asserts that non-traditional employment relationships are increasingly common. He argues that those employed under such conditions should have protections similar to traditional workers, including the right not to be discriminated against for their beliefs.
In a previous statement, Working Partners clarified that Philip was let go not directly due to the nature of her views but because she associated her pen name with personal beliefs on social media. HarperCollins UK, on the other hand, stated it had “only an arrangement” with Working Partners and distanced itself from the issue.
Philip’s legal team will argue that various factors, including the level of control exercised by her employer, indicate she should be classified as a “worker”. Philip believes that a successful appeal could set a precedent for better employment protection in publishing and creative industries.
Image credit: Gillian Philip