You may remember that back in October we covered a story questioning whether vegetarianism is a philosophical belief and therefore protected under equality law. In this particular case the discrimination claim was dismissed. The employment tribunal found vegetarianism did not meet the criteria required to be a philosophical belief.
The tribunal did however highlight that veganism, the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products altogether, may be considered differently. A recent ruling on the subject has confirmed just that.
Ethical veganism is a philosophical belief
Passionate ethical vegan Jordi Casmitjana claimed that his employer, The League Against Cruel Sports, discriminated against him due to his beliefs. Particularly, he had spoken out about the company’s pension funds being invested in firms involved with animal testing, which given the company’s aims does seem strange.
His employer denies discrimination and unfair dismissal, saying that the claimant was dismissed due to gross misconduct.
What is ethical veganism?
Ethical vegans follow a strict plant-based diet much like vegans. But they also follow a vegan lifestyle and seek to exclude anything that relates to animal exploitation or cruelty, such as products that are tested on animals.
It is this distinction that led Judge Robin Postle to his conclusion that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
This isn’t a blanket ruling and comes down to the claimant’s specific and extreme views. The ruling has been widely reported with predictions of all types of problems for employers, from having to replace leather chairs, to checking uniforms. There have even been warnings that employees may not be able to do certain tasks within their jobs.
This is not the case! This was an individual judgement and if a link were found between the dismissal and discrimination it may well be appealed.
However it shows that employers must acknowledge and respect the beliefs of all staff who work for them.
A growing vegan population
Veganism is on the rise. The Vegan Society reported there to be 600,000 vegans in Britain this time last year. And with popular documentaries such as The Game Changers and climate change activists spreading the many benefits of a vegan diet, the number is expected to increase. Inevitably given the press coverage of this case, some others will try to jump on the bandwagon. So be vigilant and seek professional advice if you think you have an issue.
Do any vegans or ethical vegans work for you? If you have questions about how the recent ruling could impact your business and people management, call us today. Our highly qualified and knowledgeable HR experts are only a phone call away.