In a ruling thought to be the first of its kind, the Employment Tribunal has held that vegetarianism is not a ‘protected characteristic’ for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. Click here for the Judgment.
Leathes Prior represented the successful employer before Norwich Employment Tribunal, where the key legal issue for determination was whether or not an employee who was a vegetarian was entitled to seek the same protection from employment laws that are afforded to those with protected characteristics such as gender, race or disability. The particular contention in dispute was whether a belief in vegetarianism amounted to a ‘philosophical belief’ which, if it did, would qualify as a protected characteristic by virtue of section 10 of the Equality Act 2010 (since protection is afforded to those with a ‘religion or belief’ and a ‘belief’ is defined as any ‘religious or philosophical belief’).
Following a Hearing which took place in May 2019, where Leathes Prior’s Head of Employment Dan Chapman appeared as the advocate on behalf of the employer, the Employment Tribunal’s Judgment has now been published which held that, whilst the practice of vegetarianism is clearly worthy of respect in a democratic society, it did not amount to a philosophical belief capable of protection under the Equality Act 2010. The key tenet of the Judgment was that vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice and that it does not amount to a serious cogent belief. The Tribunal did hint (although such observations would not necessarily be binding on any future Tribunal considering the point) that the decision might have been different if one were considering the status of veganism (as opposed to vegetarianism). Indeed, the issue of whether veganism amounted to a protected characteristic gained considerable media attention in December 2018 (see here) and it is understood that Mr Casimitjana’s claim (or at least the preliminary aspect of it, as to whether veganism is a protected characteristic) will be determined, also in the Norwich Employment Tribunal, during October.
In our case, it is to be noted that our client would have denied liability in respect of the claimant’s claims in any event, even if it had not have been successful on this important jurisdictional and preliminary issue.
Leathes Prior Partners Sarah Appleton and Dan Chapman acted in this matter and any media enquiries on the case or the wider significance of the legal status of vegetarianism or veganism in the workplace should be addressed to either of them. For any prospective clients who wish to obtain legal advice on this matter, please contact us here or see our website.