An Employment Tribunal (ET) has held that ethical veganism should be protected under discrimination law, a ruling that may have significant implications for employers.
Some individuals choose to simply follow a vegan diet, but ethical vegans try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation from their lifestyle, including in clothing and toiletries.
At a preliminary hearing, The ET has ruled that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.
Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports
Mr Casamitjana was employed by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) as a zoologist, specialising in animal behaviour. LACS holds itself out as a vegan-friendly employer. Mr Casamitjana found that pension funds were invested in pharmaceutical and tobacco companies which used animal testing, so he informed his managers.
Mr Casamitjana felt that no action was taken, so then proceeded to inform other employees. As a result he was disciplined and then dismissed. Mr Casamitjana claims he was discriminated against due to his strong ethical vegan beliefs. LACS is defending the claim on the basis that Mr Casamitjana was dismissed for gross misconduct not related to his vegan beliefs, as he failed to follow a reasonable instruction.
What Does This Mean for You?
While not binding on other courts, the decision sets out the likely approach of other courts and tribunals to ethical veganism and means that Birmingham employers must make sure they do not discriminate against employees for applying ethical vegan principles to all aspects of their working life.
Not all vegans or vegetarians will be protected under the Equality Act, however. A previous ET decision (Conisbee v Crossley Farms) found that vegetarianism was not protected in that instance and the Casamitjana case does not appear to cover those who simply follow a vegan diet.
For specialist legal advice on discrimination issues, please contact Kathy Halliday in VWV’s Employment Law team on 0121 227 3711.