EMPLOYMENT LAW

Judge rules that 'ethical veganism' should be protected under the Equality Act 2010

An Employment Tribunal Judge in Norwich has ruled that 'ethical veganism' is a philosophical belief and should be protected under the Equality Act 2010.

Mr Jordi Casamitjana was dismissed by the animal welfare charity, League against Cruel Sports, after disclosing to other employees that the charity invested pension funds in firms involved with animal testing. The employer believed that this constituted an act of gross misconduct and subsequently dismissed Mr Casamitjana. Mr Casamitjana claimed that he was dismissed as a result of his ethical veganism.

Ethical veganism involves eating a plant-based diet and avoiding any acts of exploitation of animals. This includes wearing clothing made from animals and product testing on animals. Mr Casamitjana describes ethical veganism as “a philosophy and a belief system which encompasses most aspects of my life.”

Mr Casamitjana initiated Tribunal proceedings with the main intention of establishing that ethical veganism constitutional a philosophical belief. For a belief to be protected under the Equality Act 2010 it must meet a series of tests, including being worthy of respect in a democratic society, not being incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with fundamental rights of others.

In this landmark decision by Judge Robin Postle, it was decided that that ethical veganism did satisfy the required tests for a philosophical belief and should be added to the list of beliefs protected under the Equality Act 2010. This is in addition to the already protected characteristics of religion and belief, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex and sexual orientation which are all protected characteristics under the Equality Act. The outcome of this ruling means that ethical vegans are entitled to protection from discrimination.

Whilst this judgment is not binding in Northern Ireland, it could be of persuasive influence to a judge if a similar case arises in our Employment Tribunal. Therefore, this serves as a note of caution to employers, it is advisable that ethical vegans are respected and not discriminated against on account of their beliefs.

 

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