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Employee claims he was sacked for being vegan - is this discrimination?

View profile for Emily Yeardley
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In landmark legal case, due to be heard in March 2019, an Employment Tribunal will be asked to consider whether veganism constitutes a philosophical belief.

Jordi Casamitjana alleges he was dismissed by his employer, League Against Cruel Sports (the 'Employer') for disclosing the fact that his Employer invests in pension funds that carry out animal testing. Mr Casamitjana believes he was dismissed for being an ethical vegan and is fighting for veganism to be a belief that is protected by law. The Employer denies that his dismissal was because he is a vegan and has stated that his dismissal was for gross misconduct. 

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is when someone is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic. These characteristics include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Mr Casamitjana is arguing that veganism is a philosophical belief under the protected characteristic of religion or belief. For a philosophical belief to gain the protections under the discrimination legislation, it must satisfy the following criteria;

  • It must be a genuinely held belief
  • It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint
  • It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
  • It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance
  • It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, compatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others[1]

Comment

If Mr Casamitjana is successful, an Employment Tribunal will have to decide if his dismissal was because of his vegan beliefs for his claims to succeed. If he does succeed, employers will be required to consider the needs of their vegan employees moving forward and ensure they are not treated less favourably as a result of such beliefs.

We will provide an update on this case once the judgment has been handed down, but it will provide an interesting development.  

If you would like to discuss this article in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Employment Team.

This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.

 

 

[1] http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4348

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