Ethical veganism is a philosophical belief under the Equality Act
The Employment Tribunal in Norwich has delivered its judgement in the case of Jordi Casamitjana and his former employer, the League Against Cruel Sports. The case concerned the issue of whether ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010.
Mr Casamitjana was employed by the League Against Cruel Sports as Head of Policy and Research, but was subsequently disciplined and dismissed by his employer for gross misconduct. Mr Casamitjana argues the decision to dismiss was due to his belief in ethical veganism, namely in response to the concerns he raised about his employer’s pension fund investing in companies that tested on animals. The League Against Cruel Sports argues that they had legitimate grounds to dismiss Mr Casamitjana for gross misconduct for reasons unconnected to his concerns about the pension fund.
A full hearing will be held next month, but the recent judgement delivered by the Employment Tribunal was on a preliminary point, namely whether ethical veganism could amount to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
Employment Judge Postle has confirmed in a short judgement that Mr Casamitjana did adhere to his belief and was satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act. As a result, it could be argued in the future that employers may have to make reasonable adjustments for vegans in respect of office furniture, toiletries and work uniform, on the basis that veganism is a lifestyle choice which prohibits the use of all animal products.
Although this judgement could have a significant impact for employers, it comes with a caveat, namely that the League Against Cruel Sports did not contest the issue of whether ethical veganism should be a protected belief. This was because the League Against Cruel Sports state this issue is irrelevant to the central reason for Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal for gross misconduct. That issue will be determined at next month’s full tribunal hearing.
It is uncertain therefore whether or not the Employment Tribunal would have come to the same conclusion had the League Against Cruel Sports pleaded a defence to that point. In this case, Mr Casamitjana’s vegan views were well known and accepted by the League Against Cruel Sports. As such, it does not automatically follow that all vegans will have the same beliefs as Mr Casamitjana, nor does it automatically follow that veganism is a protected characteristic for all vegans.
Although there will be a lot of publicity about this case, employers should note that this is only a preliminary judgement in the Employment Tribunal. Therefore a subsequent Employment Tribunal can depart from this decision. It is highly likely the issue in a separate case will come before the Employment Tribunal again in the future, and potentially even the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which will hopefully provide further clarification on the issue for employers.
For further information, please do not hesitate to contact the Employment Law Team on 01905 734037 or by completing the online enquiry form.