Tribunal in Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports finds ethical veganism to be a protected characteristic

Tribunal in Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports finds ethical veganism to be a protected characteristic

BY ABGIAL LENART

UPDATE ON PREVIOUS ARTICLE

Tribunal in Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports finds ethical veganism to be a protected characteristic

Jordi Casamitjana, who describes himself as an ‘ethical vegan,’ brought a claim against his former employer, League Against Cruel Sport, for unfair dismissal after disclosing to other employees that its pension fund was being invested in companies that are involved with animal testing. It should be noted that his employer refutes this and purports that he was dismissed from his position due to gross misconduct.

In this case, Jordi Casamitjana has sought for the tribunal to find that ethical veganism is to be legally recognised as a philosophical belief and thereby attract the protection of discrimination legislation.

The Tribunal on 3rd January 2020 ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and is therefore a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. The reason for dismissal has yet to be decided and the Judgment is unlikely to be available for some time, so it is not possible yet to analyse the Tribunal’s reasoning. However, the BBC reported that the Judge found ethical veganism satisfied the Grainger criteria and was “important” and “worthy” of respect in a democratic society. It is reported that the Judge concluded that, “I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.

The philosophy of ‘ethical vegans’ can be distinguished from ‘health vegans’ who choose dietary veganism for reasons related to individual health. Counsel for the Claimants explained that ethical veganism is different because, “at its heart lies a moral imperative, namely the recognition of non-human animals as sentient beings it is morally wrong to exploit or harm.

Is this a landmark case?

This is a decision of the first instance employment tribunal and therefore is not binding on other Tribunals. Further, the Respondents in this case were willing to concede the issue and so are highly unlikely to appeal it. Therefore, the question is unlikely to find itself before a higher court in this present case.

However, it does give employers an indication of how ethical veganism is likely to be treated before an employment tribunal and as such, the types of steps they should be considering for their employees and the workplace.

Discrimination in the workplace does not only apply to employees but also job applicants and self-employed contractors. If a person brings a claim for harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace, it is the employer’s responsibility to prove the behaviour was not linked to a protected characteristic and that they did not treat the employee less favourably. Compensation claims relating to discrimination actions are uncapped and therefore, it is vital from a commercial point of view that employers try and prevent discriminatory acts.

Employers will now need to think about products and services they provide in the workplace, such as vegan-friendly food options in the cafeteria or in meetings, to the uniform and furniture not containing animal products such as wool and leather.

It is worth noting that this is not the end for this case. The Respondent maintains that the Claimant’s beliefs were irrelevant to the dismissal and the question of whether the Claimant was treated less favourably because of his veganism is yet to be determined.