A UK employment tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and consequently protected by employment law.
The ruling came in a case involving Jordi Casamitjana, who is bringing claims of discrimination and whistleblowing against his former employer, the League Against Cruel Sports.
In relation to the discrimination claim, he is alleging that he was discriminated against after raising concerns about the charity’s pension fund investments in companies that perform experiments on animals, and that the charity’s decision to dismiss him was because of his philosophical belief in ethical veganism.
Under the Equality Act it is unlawful to discriminate against workers or job applicants because of their religion, religious belief or philosophical belief. The question for the Tribunal in this hearing was whether or not Mr Casamitjana’s belief constituted a philosophical belief such that it was protected under the Equality Act. In the event, the charity conceded this issue before the hearing, but the Tribunal still needed to satisfy itself that the required criteria were met.
The Tribunal has decided that Mr Casamitjana’s belief in ethical veganism does meet the criteria required to constitute a philosophical belief under the Equality Act, and therefore it is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.
This decision means that in addition to his whistleblowing claims, Mr Casamitjana’s claims for discrimination and harassment because of/related to this protected characteristic can now proceed to the next stage.
Beyond Mr Casamitjana’s individual situation, this decision will assist others who have received less favourable treatment because they hold this belief, whether within the employment sphere, or in education, or service providers, any of the other areas covered by the Equality Act.