A tribunal decision that ethical veganism can be recognised as a philosophical belief has marked an interesting start to the New Year.
A Judge sitting at the Norwich Employment Tribunal ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief protected by discrimination legislation. The ruling was the result of a case brought by Jordi Casamitjana who alleged he was unfairly sacked by The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) because of his ethical veganism. LACS said he had been dismissed for gross misconduct.
An ethical vegan is, broadly speaking, an individual who opposes the human use of animals for any reason. Some people choose to simply follow a vegan diet – a plant-based diet avoiding all animal products such as dairy, eggs, honey, meat and fish.
While making headlines regarding the facts of the case, the ruling does not reflect a change in the law.
Latham Parry, partner and head of employment law at Watsons Solicitors advised that employers would do well to carefully think about the products and services they provide at work, as well as the policies they operate. In the case of ethical veganism, this could include consideration of food choices, work uniform and even the fabrics of office furniture (such as leather or wool).
He said: “This protection under law could extend to other philosophical beliefs which have not previously been considered, and employers will need to be aware moving forward.
“As this is a decision by an employment tribunal, it is not binding on other tribunals, but demonstrates how ethical veganism is likely to be treated by other employment tribunals.
“Interestingly, the respondent in this case – The League Against Cruel Sports – did not oppose the claimant’s assertion that ethical veganism was a belief, so do not expect an appeal against this decision.
“In this instance, it does not mean that anyone who is a vegan will be protected under the Equality Act, the nature of ethical veganism is quite extensive and impacts on many different lifestyle choices; each case will still have to be decided on its own facts.”
The Equality Act 2010 protects employees against discrimination and other prohibited conduct in relation to nine ‘protected characteristics’:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
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