Ethical vegan tribunal could open floodgates for other beliefs

As first published by HRreview on 3rd January 2020

The ethical vegan tribunal could open the floodgates to claims from employees with other types of convictions arguing that their belief should also be recognised as a “philosophical belief”

The League Against Cruel Sports fired Mr Jordi Casamitjana after he raised concerns that its pension fund invested in companies that tested on animals. Following little interest or action from bosses, Mr Casamitjana proceeded to voice his concerns to colleagues, prompting his dismissal for gross misconduct.

Jordi Casamitjana claims this was due to his ethical veganism beliefs. The tribunal, which took place on 3rd January 2020, found that Ethical Veganism is a “philosophical belief” and is therefore protected by the Equality Act 2010.

This ruling could open the floodgates to claims from people with other types of belief arguing that their belief should also be recognised as a philosophical belief. For example, vegetarianism, feminism, pacifism and socialism could argue this. Until this judgment, the Employment Tribunal has taken a narrow approach as to what is a “belief”. Indeed, in September 2019 vegetarianism was rejected by the Tribunal as being a “belief” on the basis it was considered that it did not concern a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour; did not attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and did not have a similar status or cogency to religious beliefs.

The judgment that ethical veganism is a belief opens up the Tribunal’s decision on vegetarianism to challenge. There is now the potential for a wider interpretation as to what a “belief” is and therefore potentially widens the protection given under the Equality Act 2010.

This ruling fundamentally moves the goalposts as it means ethical veganism now has protected characteristic status and those adhering to this philosophy can seek to argue that they have been discriminated against because of their veganism belief. The amount of compensation possible for discrimination claims is uncapped. This means that employers are likely to see more claims of discrimination brought.

Only time will tell how big an impact this judgment will have.

For  more information, please contact Katie Maguire in our Employment, Human Resources and Pensions team.

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