*** UPDATE *** Thanks to members' extraordinary generosity, we have met our target. Jeremy's legal expenses should now be covered. We are leaving the crowdfunder open for donors who still wish to pledge – further money will go to our war chest for helping other members stand up for their rights in the courts. Details of individual cases to follow.
Our member Jeremy Sleath needs your help. In September 2020, after 17 years of loyal service, he was dismissed from his role as Senior Conductor with West Midland Trains.
Jeremy's offence? He had celebrated the end of lockdown by posting on his personal Facebook account:
Thank F*** our pubs open up today. We cannot let our way of life become like some sort of Muslim alcohol-free caliphate just to beat Covid19.
For Jeremy, a regular pub-goer, this was simply an expression of his secular belief. He does not want to live in a Muslim caliphate or any sort of theocracy. He simply wants to be free to go to the pub and socialise.
West Midland Trains, however, found Jeremy’s comments offensive. Or at least, one anonymous fellow employee did. Following a disciplinary procedure which Jeremy believes to have been flawed and unfair, he was summarily dismissed.
The effect on Jeremy is serious. He is without income, and now relies on modest savings simply to get by. Jeremy lives alone, and the loss of day-to-day interaction with colleagues has taken its toll on his mental health.
Despite facing difficulties that would defeat many of us, Jeremy is fighting back. Without legal representation or help from his union, he filed a claim in the Employment Tribunal for discrimination on grounds of belief and unfair dismissal.
As reported in the Times and Daily Mail, Jeremy, still without legal assistance, persuaded the employment judge that his Facebook comments were indeed an expression of a belief – secular atheism – protected by the Equality Act 2010.
The judge found Jeremy a compelling witness:
I found him to be very open and talkative, polite and serious about his beliefs. I do not find him to be a person who would deliberately seek to upset anyone, but, on the other hand, would not shrink from saying what he thought about anything. He is prepared to be controversial. He is what one may describe as a ‘character’, namely one who is unafraid to express his own individuality.…
I find the claimant to have been an entirely open and honest witness and accept his evidence entirely.
Jeremy now needs your help. On 23 September a full hearing into his unfair dismissal claim will be heard. We do not want Jeremy to have to fight his next battle alone. The Free Speech Union has hooked Jeremy up with a formidable legal team – solicitor Robert Dougans of Preiskel & Co, and barrister David Mitchell of 39 Essex.
We believe Jeremy is a compelling claimant, bringing an important claim that has a good prospect of success. Much work remains to be done to prepare for trial and deliver the legal arguments that will, we hope, get Jeremy his job back.
We therefore ask you to give what you can to help Jeremy get a fair outcome. This claim doesn’t just concern Jeremy – it concerns all of us, and our right to keep our jobs and livelihood even when our employers dislike personal opinions we express out of work.
Jeremy’s legal team have advised that the likely full cost of pursuing his claim will be £15,500, including VAT. Any monies not spent will be moved to the Free Speech Union’s war chest for helping other members stand up for their rights in the courts.