Kate Brooks

Partner, Solicitor & Head of Employment/HR Services

DATE PUBLISHED: 03 Jan 2020 LAST UPDATED: 24 May 2022

Ethical vegans protected by discrimination legislation

The Equality Act 2010 houses our discrimination legislation in the UK.

It is unlawful to discriminate against employees on the grounds of protected characteristics.

One of the protected characteristics is, “religious or philosophical belief”.

An Employment Tribunal has ruled in a preliminary hearing in a case lodged by Mr Casamitjana that ethical veganism should be classed as a philosophical or religious belief.

The test before the Employment Tribunal was whether ethical veganism:

  1. Is genuinely held and worthy of respect in a democratic society;
  2. Concerns a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  3. Attains a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and
  4. Has a similar status or cogency to religious beliefs.

In the case of Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd, the employment tribunal previously found that vegetarianism was not a religious or philosophical belief. However, the Employment Judge did comment and contrast veganism by stating that there was a clear cogency and cohesion in vegan belief.

In the current case, Mr Casamitjana was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports. His case is that the real reason for dismissal was because of his religious and philosophical belief in ethical veganism. A preliminary issue in the case was whether ethical veganism constituted a philosophical or religious belief for the purposes of the Equality Act. There will now likely be a full hearing as to whether Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal was due to his veganism.

The decision that veganism is capable of being a protected characteristic, paves the way for many other vegans, and indeed employees with other beliefs, who have been treated badly at work due to pursue claims for unlawful discrimination.

It is, however, unlikely that someone dipping into veganism for example for “Veganuary” would be protected.

If you have experienced poor treatment at work or wish to minimise the risk associated with terminating an employee’s employment, please do not hesitate to get in touch at kate.brooks@ellisjones.co.uk or by calling 01202 057754.

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