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Ethical vegans protected from discrimination at work

A landmark ruling that ethical veganism is a ‘philosophical belief’ is likely to have far reaching implications in the workplace.

‘Ethical vegans’ are people who not only follow a plant-based diet but try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation from their lifestyle. They now have the right to the same legal protection as people who hold conventional religious beliefs.

The Employment Tribunal case means that employers must respect ethical veganism. They should stake steps to ensure that they – and other members of staff – don’t discriminate against employees because of this philosophical belief.

It follows previous tribunal rulings that radical action to tackle climate change can amount to a protected belief – as can the cause of Scottish independence.

What happened in this case?

Jordi Casamitjana claims he was sacked from his job at the League Against Cruel Sports because he raised concerns that its pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing.

He says he was unfairly disciplined for flagging this up and that the decision to dismiss him was because of his philosophical belief in ethical veganism.

The League Against Cruel Sports denies this, and maintains he was dismissed for other reasons. It did not contest that ethical veganism should be protected.

Although the judge will not decide on Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal till a later date, he ruled that ethical veganism was ‘important’ and ‘worthy’ of respect in a democratic society and therefore qualified as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.

He said: “I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.”

What is a protected belief?

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is against the law to discriminate against someone because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

The ruling in Mr Casamitjana’s case is the first time that veganism has been ruled a protected philosophical belief and therefore protected by law.

For help and guidance about this area of the law, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Employment Team, Business Employment Team or Employment Law Specialist Solicitor Julia Beasley directly.

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