Employers may need to update their diversity policies to include ethical veganism after an employment tribunal held that it was capable of being a protected belief under the Equality Act.
The case, which attracted widespread publicity, involved Jordi Casamitjana, who was dismissed from his job with the campaign group, the League Against Cruel Sports.
Mr Casamitjana brought a claim of unfair dismissal, saying that he was sacked because of his ethical veganism after disclosing that the League had invested pension funds in companies involved in testing products on animals.
The League said his dismissal was for gross misconduct and had nothing to do with veganism.
The tribunal has yet to decide on the claim but as a preliminary issue, it has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and can therefore qualify as one of nine “protected characteristics” covered by the Equality Act 2010.
The ruling does not refer to all vegans; only those for whom veganism is a deeply held belief system. It would not apply to people who choose not to eat meat or other animal products simply because they feel it would be bad for their health.
Mr Casamitjana’s approach goes much further than that. For example, he said he would prefer to walk than take a bus to avoid possible crashes with insects or birds.
Judge Robin Postle said: “I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.”
While the protection of the Equality Act may not extend to all forms of veganism, employers may wish to ensure their policies are up to date to avoid any potential problems in the future.
If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law please contact Joanne on 01228 516666.
By Joanne Stronach Head of Employment & HR