A landmark tribunal ruling relates to the case of an "ethical vegan" who alleged he was sacked because of his views on animal products.
Jordi Casamitjana claims he was dismissed by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his ethical veganism. It says he was dismissed for gross misconduct.
When the League failed to act after he brought the question of it having investments in firms involved in animal testing to its attention, he gave the information to other members of staff.
The charity did not contest that ethical veganism should be protected, arguing that this had no bearing on his dismissal.
A ruling on the fairness of that dismissal has yet to be delivered; for the moment the tribunal was considering only whether being an ethical vegan gave Mr Casamitjana protection against discrimination.
To be entitled to protection under the 2010 Equality Act, a belief must meet a series of tests including being worthy of respect in a democratic society, not being incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with fundamental rights of others.
Mr Casamitjana said: “I am an ethical vegan. This involves much more than just not eating food with animal ingredients, it’s a philosophy and a belief system which encompasses most aspects of my life.”
Peter Daly, the employment lawyer from Slater and Gordon representing Mr Casamitjana, welcomed the tribunal decision.
“The recognition of ethical veganism as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 will have potentially significant effects on employment and the workplace, education, transport and the provision of goods and services,” he predicted.
Comment by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory Kate Palmer
Although a first instance decision that could still be appealed, this long-awaited ruling provides useful commentary on the level of legal protection that ethnical veganism should receive in the workplace.
Specifically, in the tribunal’s view, it should be considered unlawful to treat individuals less favourably at work because of this belief. This decision stands to have a considerable impact on the protections afforded to ethical vegan employees and employers should be ready for this.
Crucially, businesses will now need to treat ethical veganism the same as any religion, or similar qualifying philosophical belief, or face a potential direct or indirect discrimination claim from ethical vegans in their employ.
In light of this ruling, employers may want to consider reviewing how they support ethical vegans in their company, and if any changes are required.
It should be remembered that no employee should feel mistreated at work. As vegans abstain from the consumption of animal products, employers should pay close attention to the food on offer in any staff canteen or pre-arranged business lunches, ensuring there are always vegan options available.
Aside from the potential legal implications as seen here, catering for a diverse workforce can be critical in both attracting and retaining key talent.
Last reviewed 6 January 2020