A while back I reported that belief in climate change, and separately, belief in the assistance of psychics, could amount to "philosophical belief(s)" in terms of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations and so represent grounds for a discrimination claim. See links for further details:-
The definition of "philosophical belief" has again been tested by an Employment Tribunal which recently held that discrimination against people with a strong belief in animal rights is unlawful. Joe Hashman is a well known former animal rights activist. Mr Hashman lodged proceedings against his former employers Orchard Park Garden Centre, on the basis that they had terminated his contract due to his belief in the sanctity of life and moral duty to avoid unnecessary suffering to animals.
Orchard Park Garden Centre, whose owners were members of the South and West Wiltshire Hunt, submitted that Mr Hashman's beliefs were "incoherent, inconsistent, politically motivated by class war and that they endorsed violence" and so were not worthy of respect. The Tribunal rejected their argument, instead being persuaded that Mr Hashman's anti fox-hunting and hare coursing sentiments were consistent with his belief that "we all have a moral obligation to live in a way which is kind to each other, our environment and our fellow creatures" and within the parameters of his general beliefs.
It is interesting to note that Mr Hashman was represented by the same legal team that successfully established in Grainger plc v Tim Nicholson (see Climate Change Belief above) that their client's strong views on climate change went “beyond a mere opinion". In fact, guidance given in that case was referred to and applied in the present case, further highlighting the expanding parameters of this element of discrimination law.
The case will now proceed to a merits hearing in the Employment Tribunal, and it will be necessary for Mr Hashman to establish a link between his belief and his dismissal. As I have highlighted before, in many cases of this nature, this may be a potential tricky hurdle for the employee. Employers though should be careful when taking action against an employee which is a result of an employee's strongly held belief about something.