Following the recent preliminary hearing of Casamitjana Costa v the League Against Cruel Sports, the Employment Tribunal found that being a vegan is capable of being a protected belief under the Equality Act 2020.
Mr Casamitjana worked, as a zoologist, for League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), which promotes itself as one of the most vegan-friendly employers in the country.
However, it came to Mr Casamitjana’s attention that the company’s pension funds were invested in pharmaceutical and tobacco companies, which engage in animal testing. Having raised his concerns with his managers, he felt that nothing was done and so he emailed his colleagues with his personal opinions on the subject.
He was subsequently disciplined and then dismissed. Mr Casamitjana claims he was dismissed unfairly due to his strong ethical vegan beliefs.
LACS claim Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal was for gross misconduct after he failed to follow repeated instructions about sending emails to colleagues on the subject, and that to link his dismissal to his vegan beliefs is inaccurate.
The Employment Tribunal, as a preliminary point, found that being a vegan was capable of being a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, as it could fall under the ‘philosophical belief’ protection.
Figures from the Vegan Society show there are currently around 600,000 vegans in Britain, compared to 150,000 in 2014. However, it seems clear from the case that few vegans will actually be protected.
Mr Casamitjana is not merely a dietary vegan, but also adopts a lifestyle which might be regarded as non-conventional in society. This includes (where possible) only paying for items with a credit card to avoid handling banknotes as they contain animal products. If a journey is less than an hour’s walk, he will also avoid public transport to avoid accidental crashes with insects or birds.
The judge ruled that he found it “easy to conclude that there is overwhelming evidence before me that ethical veganism is capable of being a philosophical belief and thus a protected characteristic”.
The finding that being a vegan can be protected by the Equality Act is an important consideration for employers, particularly as it applies even though a worker may not have two years’ service.
For further information, please contact our Employment Law team on 02920 853794 or email email@example.com.