Jessica Bernard, a trainee solicitor in Gregg Latchams’ employment team, considers the recent decision in the case of Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports, where an employment tribunal considered whether ethical veganism is a philosophical belief protected by the Equality Act 2010.
Jordi Casamitjana was formerly employed by the League Against Cruel Sports (“LACS”). Mr Casamitjana claims he was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against by LACS because he is an ethical vegan. In addition to following a vegan diet, ethical vegans oppose the use and exploitation of animals by humans for any purpose.
For Mr Casamitjana’s case to succeed, he had to show that ethical veganism is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. The Act protects against discrimination in the workplace and contains nine protected characteristics, including religion or belief.
On 3 January, a Norwich employment tribunal determined that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief protected by the Act. This contrasts the case of Conisbee v Crossley Farms, in which a tribunal ruled that vegetarianism is a viewpoint rather than a protected belief. In order to be protected, a philosophical belief must satisfy certain criteria. Amongst other things, it must relate to a substantial aspect of human life and attain a certain level of seriousness in a democratic society. Reports suggest these criteria were met in relation to ethical veganism, but not vegetarianism.
The Casamitjana decision is not binding on other employment tribunals and may not be followed. It is also worth noting the decision does not determine whether veganism, as opposed to ethical veganism, is a protected characteristic. However, employers will still need to consider the potential impact of the decision on their business and what changes may be required to prevent discriminatory treatment of ethical vegans.
The tribunal’s judgment has not yet been released. If there are any additional matters to report following release of the judgment, we will provide a further update. The tribunal are also yet to consider whether LACS unlawfully dismissed Mr Casamitjana. This will be dealt with at a subsequent hearing.
If you have any questions on any employment law issue, please contact Jessica Bernard, Cecily Donoghue or Nick Jones in our Bristol office.