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Food for thought: Employment Tribunal to consider whether ethical veganism is protected under discrimination legislation

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In March 2019, an Employment Tribunal will decide for the first time whether ethical veganism is a “philosophical belief” under one of the nine protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010, namely “religion or belief”. If the Employment Tribunal decides that it is, then it would still likely be subject to appeal. So it would unlikely finally determine issue.

It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate directly, by treating an employee less favourably than others because of their religion or belief.

Case law has set out a series of tests to determine whether a philosophical belief falls within the scope of the protected characteristic, “religion or belief”.

If the Tribunal decides that ethical veganism is a protected characteristic, then the discrimination claim will proceed to a full hearing.

Jordi Casamitjana claims he was dismissed from his role as head of policy and research at the League Against Cruel Sports after raising concerns to his manager and other employees that it was investing pension funds in companies that tested on animals. He alleges that as a result of his disclosures he was unfairly disciplined and subsequently dismissed. Mr Casamitjana claims that the reason for his dismissal was due to his philosophical belief in ethical veganism.  The League Against Cruel Sports says he was dismissed for gross misconduct and denies that he was dismissed because of his veganism.

If the Tribunal finds ethical veganism to be a protected characteristic, subject to the first instance decision not being overturned on appeal, it will ensure ethical vegans are protected against discrimination (direct and indirect), harassment and victimisation.

Practically speaking, if vegans are given protected status then employers will need to understand more about what veganism means in practice and consider any particular needs vegans may have in the workplace.