Bestselling children’s author Gillian Philip to appeal tribunal ruling after being dropped by her publisher for using pen name to express support for JK Rowling in transgender rights debate
Children’s author Gillian Philip is to appeal a tribunal ruling after being dropped by her publisher for using her pen name to publicly support controversial JK Rowling’s views on transgender rights.
Former fantasy fiction writer Ms Philip, 59, will tomorrow appeal a previous employment tribunal ruling that denounced her ‘worker’ status – and thereby unprotected from unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Ms Philip claims she was ‘discriminated’ against by book packaging business Working Partners and publisher HarperCollins after adding #IStandWithJKRowling, in support of the Harry Potter creator, to her Twitter bio. Rowling had widely been accused of being transphobic.
Within a month of adding the hashtag to her profile, the author was told by her agent that Working Partners, which commissions authors to pen titles for major publishers, had ended her contract, under instruction from HarperCollins.
Ms Philip claimed she was dropped because the publisher had ‘caved in to this toxic community’, however Working Partners instead said it was because she had associated her pen name with personal beliefs online – regardless of what those beliefs were.
Children’s author Gillian Philip has launched a legal fight after being ‘sacked’ for supporting controversial JK Rowling in her view on transgender rights
JK Rowling at the ‘Fantastic Beasts The Secrets of Dumbledore’ film premiere at the Royal Festival Hall, London, in March 2022
In recent days, Ms Philip shared a tweet about the appearance of gender critical Amanda Abbington on Strictly Come Dancing which appeared to liken transgender people to the Taliban, calling them ‘the TRAliban’.
She also shared a picture of trans woman Dylan Mulvaney that read ‘Isn’t there supposed to be a trans genocide happening?’ as well as replying ‘Yay Glinner’ to a tweet from Graham Linehan that read: ‘Dungeon-based pervert who wants you think there’s such a thing as ‘trans kids’.’
Ms Philip was one of several authors writing under the name Erin Hunter on popular animal fantasy series including Warrior Cats, Survivors and Bravelands.
After her tweet in support of JK Rowling, Ms Philip claims she received abuse and death threats. She later tweeted ‘Bring it on, homophobes and lesbian-haters’.
In light of her tweets, James Noble, the managing editor of Working Partners, responded to complaints from the public regarding her gender critical views.
Ms Philip claims she was ‘discriminated’ against by book packaging business Working Partners and publisher HarperCollins after adding #ISTANDWITHROWLING, in support of the Harry Potter creator, to her Twitter bio (pictured)
He wrote: ‘The worlds created by Erin Hunter are meant to be inclusive for all readers and we want to let you know that Gillian Philip will no longer be writing any Erin Hunter novels.’
Speaking at the time of her dismissal, Ms Philip refuted claims she was ‘transphobic’, saying: ‘It is concerning that my concerns about women’s legal rights and spaces have been presented as “transphobia”, and that this accusation has been allowed to stand by my former employers.’
Working Partners, said in a previous statement: ‘Erin Hunter is not a single person but a diverse team of creatives and writers.
‘We recently became aware that Gillian Philip had associated the Erin Hunter pen-name with her personal views on Twitter, thus associating them with the whole collective.
‘In light of this situation, the decision was taken to no longer work with Gillian Philip. The decision taken was not in direct response to the nature of Gillian’s personally expressed views.’
Ms Philip was one of several authors writing under the name Erin Hunter on popular animal fantasy series including Warrior Cats, Survivors and Bravelands
HarperCollins UK attempted to distance itself from the row and that it had no contact with the author. A spokesperson said it had ‘only an arrangement’ with Working Partners.
An earlier employment tribunal held in April last year ruled Ms Philip was not a ‘worker’ of Working Partners – a ruling she now hopes to overturn on appeal at the Edinburgh Employment Appeal Tribunal.
Her lawyers will argue many factors point to her ‘worker’ status – including the influence and control her employer had over her and her body of work. Ms Philip claims the appeal will ‘provide better employment protection for workers in publishing and creative industries’.
Shah Qureshi, partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell and Ms Philip’s legal advisor, said: ‘Non-traditional employment relationships are now commonplace, and it is important that those working under such arrangements, like Gillian, get the same protections as others.
‘This includes the right not to be discriminated against for one’s beliefs. There are many workers in publishing and the creative industries with unorthodox working arrangements who nevertheless have mutual obligations with their employers akin to that required to be classed as a worker or employee.’