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How might the decision to make ethical veganism a philosophical belief affect employers?

Jordi Casamitjana was dismissed in 2018 by The League Against Cruel sports for gross misconduct. Mr Casamitjana, an ethical vegan, claims that his dismissal came after telling colleagues that their employer’s pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing. His solicitors claimed that the decision to dismiss was made because of his beliefs around ethical veganism.

At an Employment Tribunal hearing in Norwich last week, a judge needed to decide if ethical veganism was a philosophical or religious belief, and therefore protected under the Equalities Act 2010. Ethical vegans eat a plant-based diet, avoid wearing clothes made of leather or wool and products that are tested on animals.

Mr Casamitiana’s lawyers claim that if the case was successful, it would establish that the belief entitles ethical vegans to protection from discrimination in the workplace.

The Judge’s decision, made on 3 January, was that ethical veganism is indeed a philosophical belief and should receive similar protection to religion in the workplace.

It is worth bearing in mind that this hearing was primarily about ethical veganism as a philosophical belief, and that a second hearing, will be about the specifics regarding Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal.

What this decision means for employers?

The Judge’s decision does not change any laws per se. However, it does ‘shine a light’ regarding the future treatment of ethical vegans in the workplace and the steps that employers might want to consider. These may include:

  • Updating policies to reflect ethical veganism as a philosophical belief.
  • Ensure that ethical vegans are given the same protections as other employees with religious or philosophical beliefs.
  • At a practical level, to review the choice of food available in workplace eateries, choice of materials for staff uniforms, any leather or wool used in office furniture, toiletries and cleaning products and of course pension fund investments.

It does seem that Friday’s ruling is a significant one for employers of working people in the UK who have specifically chosen an ethical vegan lifestyle.

If you are an employer and need any advice on this subject, contact the Employment Team at Downs Solicitors for more information.

Posted on 10/01/2020 by Nicola O'Dwyer

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