Casamitjana -v- League Against Cruel Sports
Employment Judge Robin Postle at the Norwich Employment Tribunal made a judgment that ethical veganism satisfied the tests required for it to be a philosophical belief protected by the Equality Act 2010.
An ethical vegan is someone who avoids the use and consumption of all animal-based products in an effort to reduce the suffering and cruelty to animals.
Jordi Casamitjana (the Claimant) worked for League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) as a zoologist, specializing in animal behaviour. While in employment, the Claimant complained to his managers that pension funds were invested in pharmaceutical and tobacco companies which used animal testing.
The Claimant claims that LACS did not take any action regarding this and when he then made other employees aware of the situation, he was disciplined and then dismissed. The Claimant claims he was dismissed unfairly due to his strong ethical vegan beliefs.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against or treat someone unfairly because of religion or belief, or their lack of religion or belief. Religion/belief is one of the nine protected characteristics contained within the Equality Act 2010. A philosophical belief must meet certain conditions including being a weighty and substantial aspect of human life, worthy of respect in a democratic society and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others.
This case will now proceed to a substantive hearing to determine whether LACS acted lawfully in dismissing the Claimant and in particular, whether the Claimant was dismissed because of his beliefs.
It is important to note that this decision is from a first instance Tribunal which means that it does not have to be followed by other Courts or Tribunals. The Tribunal Judgment does give employers an insight into how future Tribunals are likely to approach cases involving ethical veganism. Employers should expect to see legal protection extended to other beliefs, particularly as they become more established in society.