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Case law: Tribunal rules that vegetarianism is not a ‘belief’ protected under discrimination laws

Employers should treat all workers’ lawful beliefs with equal respect at work to avoid grievances or claims for constructive dismissal, but need not be concerned about discrimination claims based solely on a worker’s belief in vegetarianism.

November 2019

This update was published in Legal Alert - November 2019

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

An employee resigned and lodged a claim for discrimination on grounds of religion and belief because he was a vegetarian.

To qualify as a belief for the purpose of protection under discrimination law, the belief must:

  • be genuinely held;
  • be more than an opinion (otherwise all political views would qualify for protection under discrimination law);
  • relate to a ‘weighty and substantial’ aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • have a level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance;
  • be worthy of respect in democratic society; and
  • not be incompatible with human dignity.

It need not be a shared belief and may be based on science.

It was accepted that the employee had a genuine belief in vegetarianism and animal welfare. However, the Employment Tribunal ruled that these were not beliefs which had the necessary status or cogency like a religious belief which was required for protection under discrimination laws. They were merely opinions based on logic, and were a lifestyle choice.

It said that ‘having a belief relating to an important aspect of human life or behaviour is not enough in itself for it to have a similar status or cogency to a religious belief’.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers should treat all workers’ lawful beliefs with equal respect at work to avoid grievances and potential legal claims for constructive dismissal, but need not fear discrimination claims based solely on a worker’s belief in vegetarianism.

Case ref: in Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd, Case Number: 3335357/2018

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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