Casamitjana v The League Against Cruel Sports ET3331129/2018
Mr Casamitjana was an ethical vegan so he followed a vegan diet and opposed the use of animals for any purpose. His former employer, The League Against Cruel Sports, was an animal welfare charity that campaigned against sports such as hunting and coursing. Mr Casamitjana was employed as a researcher. He concluded that his employer's pension funds were invested unethically and took steps to ensure his contributions were invested in an ethical fund. He suspected his colleagues were unaware of the nature of the investments and would be similarly offended. He therefore sent a number of emails to colleagues. He was dismissed for gross misconduct, as he had given financial advice to colleagues in breach of an express and repeated instruction not to do so. He brought claims for indirect discrimination, direct discrimination, harassment and victimisation by reference to his belief in ethical veganism. In order to succeed, Mr Casamitjana had to convince the employment tribunal that his ethical veganism was a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. A preliminary hearing was held to consider this issue.
The employment tribunal judge held that ethical veganism constituted a philosophical belief and was therefore protected by the Equality Act. The judge applied the test set out in Grainger v Nicholson and decided that the belief was genuinely held, it was a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour, it attained a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance, it was worthy of respect in a democratic society, it was not incompatible with human dignity and it did not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.
This decision has attracted a huge amount of interest but its implications are limited because it is not binding and Mr Casamitjana is a very committed vegan; other vegans would have to prove their belief qualified for the same protection, which is unlikely to happen in the case of those who are health vegans rather than ethical vegans. There is a merits hearing next month to decide whether Mr Casamitjana was dismissed because of his veganism.