Vegetarianism Discrimination Case – Dismissed in Tribunal

Employment Law Update

An employment tribunal recently dismissed the claim by Mr Conisbee that he was protected from discrimination or harassment because he was a vegetarian. The tribunal ruled that vegetarianism did not fall in the same bracket as a religious or philosophical belief, contrasting it with veganism, which it said could be protected.

 

Mr Conisbee resigned after he was told off at work for wearing a shirt which was un-ironed, he had worked for the historic hotel from April 2018 until he resigned on 30 August 2018, Due to not being with Crossley Farms Ltd for 2 years he could not claim unfair dismissal, nevertheless he brought claims against Crossley Farms Ltd and some of its employees for discrimination and harassment, Mr Conisbee alleged he had been ridiculed at work for not eating meat.

 

The tribunal accepted that he was shouted at and “may have been sworn at” in front of customers, but it did not hear any instances of bullying related to his vegetarianism.

At a preliminary hearing the tribunal had to decide whether Mr Conisbee was protected under the Equality Act 2010 before determining on the legitimacy of his claims.

 

Judge Robin Postle dismissed the discrimination case in the Norwich ET, ruling that ruling that vegetarianism was not protected by equality law and it was not like gender or sexuality as it did not meet the required criteria for a philosophical belief.

 

In the ruling the judge said, there were many reasons, people may not eat meat, but that vegetarianism as a belief must have a “similar status or cogency to religious beliefs”. He also said that holding a belief relating to an important aspect of human life of behaviour was “not enough in itself”.

 

In this ruling, it did offer some hope for vegans currently campaigning to have veganism viewed as a protected characteristic.

 

The judge said there was a “clear cogency and cohesion in vegan belief” that vegetarianism lacked, but that this case reaffirmed the significant difference between an ethically held, deep belief in something and simply choosing a particular lifestyle.

 

Future warnings for employers    is to still be cautious as the ruling, while confirming it is unlikely vegetarianism will be considered a “philosophical belief” under the law, had left the door open on cases of “ethical veganism”. It is true that vegans share and maintain a different viewpoint on the use of any form of animal product/s.

 

It will be interesting to see in the future more  cases being brought to tribunal by employees, in fact whether this decision is appealed against – watch this space.

 

Written By:

Fran Crossland

Director (HR Consultant)

HR and you Ltd

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