Tribunal rules that vegetarianism is not protected by discrimination law

Tribunal rules that vegetarianism is not protected by discrimination law

Tribunal rules that vegetarianism is not protected by discrimination law

An employment tribunal has recently ruled that vegetarianism is not a protected characteristic for the purpose of UK discrimination law and a claim brought in the employment tribunal has been dismissed. This topic has been the subject of speculation because a number of philosophical beliefs (the definition of religious belief under discrimination law includes a philosophical belief) have been held to be covered by the legislation.

Are vegetarians treated differently at work?

In the case of Conisbee v Crossley Farms Limited and others, Mr Conisbee resigned after an incident in which he had been told off for attending work in an un-ironed shirt. It was accepted that he had been shouted at and may have been sworn at in front of customers. The claimant asserted that he had been treated differently within the workplace because of the fact that he was a vegetarian. The tribunal accepted that he was and had a genuine belief in vegetarianism and animal welfare. However it ruled that this is not capable of amounting to a philosophical belief.

What is a protected belief?

In order to qualify, such a belief must have the following criteria:

  • It must be genuinely held and not a mere opinion or viewpoint on the present state of information available
  • The belief must be a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
  • It most attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance and be worthy of respect in a democratic society.
  • The belief must be compatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

Mr Conisbee relied, amongst other arguments, upon a definition in the Oxford English Dictionary which defines vegetarianism as being

“a person who does not eat meat or fish and sometimes other animal products especially for moral, religious or health reasons”.

The tribunal ruled against him and therefore, his claim was not allowed to proceed and was dismissed.

The matter may not end there as another tribunal will this month rule upon whether ethical veganism is capable of being protected as a philosophical belief.  Watch this space.

If you feel you are being discimnated against call employment law expert Paul Grindley on 0113 320 5000 or email for employment law advice.

Further reading: Can you be discrminated against because you are vegan