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Legal comment from Shepherd and Wedderburn on employment tribunal ruling that veganism is a “philosophical belief” protected in law

Posted: 6th January 2020

Comment from Neil Maclean, Head of Shepherd and Wedderburn’s Employment Practice Group, on today’s tribunal ruling in the case of Jordi Casamitjana, who claims he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his ethical veganism:

“With the popularity of following a vegan diet and lifestyle continuing to rise, this is certainly an interesting decision of which employers should be aware. In recent years employment tribunals have found that a belief in Scottish independence is also considered a philosophical belief, and therefore entitled to protection from discrimination. Today’s decision could open the door for others who hold ethical beliefs to seek protection under the Equality Act, such as climate change campaigners. Earlier today, for example, it was reported that a group of Amazon employees claimed the company has threatened to fire some of them for violating company policies by speaking out on environmental issues. In response, the company has said its policy on employees making public comments is not new and covers all of its workers.

“Philosophical belief discrimination is an extremely difficult area for employment tribunals, and whether a belief is protected depends upon the individual circumstances of each case. Today’s decision will not be binding on other tribunals. Perhaps not surprisingly given the nature of the employer in this case, it chose not to contest the argument that veganism could amount to a philosophical belief under the Equality Act. Its position is that the claimant’s veganism was not the reason for his dismissal, which it attributes to gross misconduct.  While the claimant has succeeded in establishing that his veganism is worthy of protection, this only opens the door to a legal claim – he must still show that his veganism was the cause for his dismissal to have ultimate success.”

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