Beliefs | Employers must protect 'ethical vegans'

Employers must protect 'ethical vegans'

Any employee has the right to adhere to their own personal beliefs in the workplace, whether that is adopting a religion or following their own philosophical beliefs, an individual is protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Now a landmark employment tribunal has found that ‘ethical veganism’ will be considered a philosophical belief whose followers will be protected by law.

According to the Bournemouth Echo, the tribunal signalled that people who are vegan due to ethical reasons must be protected from discrimination and victimisation in the workplace.

The news came after Jordi Casamitjana claimed that he was removed from his post by the League Against Cruel Sports after he raised concerns that its pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing.

He believed he had been unfairly disciplined for making the disclosure and that the decision to remove him was because of his philosophical belief in ethical veganism.

A tribunal judge went on to rule that he was ‘overwhelmingly satisfied’ that ethical veganism is in fact a philosophical belief and is therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010.

Victoria Albon, Associate at Dentons, is unsurprised that the case was ruled in the claimant’s favours. She said: “It is not surprising that the employment tribunal has found that ethical veganism is protected as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.”

However, she went on to advise employers to avoid taking action which may discriminate against vegan employees.

She explained: “However, employers should be sure to avoid taking any action which might discriminate against a vegan, either directly or (unless it is capable of objective justification) indirectly. A practical example of this might be ensuring that vegan meal options are available at the office Christmas party. Vegans may also be subject to office 'banter' about their choices which could, potentially, lead to harassment claims. Any inappropriate conversations about veganism should be nipped in the bud.”

Following the ruling, Barry Ross, Director at Crossland Employment Solicitors, has warned that employers will now need to update their polices and make considerable changes to the workplace to ensure that ethical veganism is being recognised as a philosophical belief.

“On a practical level, employers will likely look to update their equal opportunities policies and procedures to make it clear that ethical veganism should be considered as a philosophical belief and to ensure that ethical vegans are afforded the same protections as employees with other religious or philosophical beliefs such as Christians or Muslims, for example,” Ross added.

“Many employers may think about the types of products and services used by companies in the workplace, from vegan friendly food options in the cafeteria to uniform and furniture choices avoiding wool or leather, as well as the type of soap or other toiletries used, ensuring that they have not been tested on animals,” Ross explained.

This isn’t the first instance where an individual’s personal beliefs have impacted their job. Last year a Pharmacist hit headlines after she refused to dispense emergency contraception on a Sunday because it went against her religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, last week HR Grapevine reported on a case where a Muslim worker was allegedly sent home for wearing a hijab to work as it went against the business’s dress code.

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Comments (1)

  • Jude Fawley
    Jude Fawley
    Mon, 6 Jan 2020 4:48pm GMT
    The court only rule in favour of the claimant for the first part of the case - to establish whether 'ethical veganism' was a philosophical belief.
    However the claimant was sacked for claimed gross misconduct after he leaked confidential information relating to the company's pension investments. On the face of it, his dietary requirements have nothing to do with him being sacked.
    His bringing the case probably has more to do with trying to establish a precedence in law for 'ethical veganism' than any serious claim for wrongful dismissal or discrimination; quite why anyone would be sacked for simply being vegan is beyond any rational person (unless of course the vegan in question is proselytising their belief system in the work place. Heaven forbid eh).

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