In a landmark case, an Employment Tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism should be protected by law in the same way as any other philosophical belief. This ruling means that it is now against the law to discriminate against someone in the workplace on the basis of their ethical veganism.
Protected Characteristics Explained
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is against the law to treat anyone less favourably because they have a protected characteristic. There are nine protected characteristics covered by this law.
- Gender Reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or philosophical belief
- Sexual orientation
If anyone is discriminated against in the workplace because of any of the above characteristics, then this is unlawful and the individual in question may have grounds to bring a Discrimination Claim. For example, a pregnant woman being overlooked for a promotion because of her pregnancy could constitute unlawful discrimination.
Why is Ethical Veganism Now a Protected Characteristic?
In March 2019, Mr Jordi Casamitjana brought a Discrimination Claim against his former employer after he was dismissed, claiming that he was dismissed because of his ethical veganism.
Ethical veganism is when someone eats a plant-based diet because of ethical reasons, such as animal welfare and/or the environment. They also refrain from buying products or services that may result in animal exploitation, such as going to the zoo, buying items made from wool or buying products from companies that test on animals.
Mr Casamitjana had been working for a charity called the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) when he discovered that they invested pension funds in companies involved in animal testing. He disclosed this information to colleagues and was subsequently dismissed. He alleges he was dismissed due to his ethical veganism however LACS says he was dismissed for gross misconduct.
Following his dismissal, Mr Casamitjana brought a claim against his former employer. He claimed that he was not disciplined fairly. Before the main Tribunal Hearing could take place, the judge needed to determine whether or not ethical veganism qualified as a philosophical belief and, as such, was a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
In order to qualify as a philosophical belief, ethical veganism would have to meet certain criteria. Amongst other factors, this included it being, "Genuinely held and is not simply a belief or an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available." It would also have to be, "Worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others."
On Friday 3 January 2020, the judge ruled that "ethical veganism" does meet the required criteria and therefore does qualify as a philosophical belief. As a result of this landmark ruling, ethical veganism is now officially recognised as falling under the protected characteristic of "religion or philosophical belief" and is therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010. However, this is a first instance decision and is not binding. In addition, the judge is yet to decide whether Mr Casamitjana's dismissal was lawful.
Making a Discrimination Claim
If you believe that you have been discriminated against on the basis of a protected characteristic, it's important to seek independent legal advice from an Employment Solicitor as soon as possible. Strict time limits apply to Employment Discrimination Claims, so it's important to act quickly.
At Co-op Legal Services our Employment Solicitors provide a range of fixed fee services, ranging from writing a grievance letter or preparing an investigation report through to providing representation at the Employment Tribunal.
To book a telephone appointment call our Employment Solicitors on 03306069589 or contact us online now.