Tribunal - a landmark caseAn animal rights activist has claimed he was sacked because he is a vegan in what could be a landmark discrimination case, it has been reported.

Jordi Casamitjana said he was fired by the League Against Cruel Sports because he was a whistleblower who revealed it invested pension funds in companies involved in animal testing, the BBC said. He claims he was a victim of discrimination because he is a vegan, and an employment tribunal will be asked to decide if veganism is a “philosophical belief” in the same way as religion. However, the League Against Cruel Sports says he was dismissed because of gross misconduct.
His case will be heard next March.

Mr Casamitjana, a UK resident originally from California, describes himself as an “ethical vegan”. He told the BBC,

Some people only eat a vegan diet but they don’t care about the environment or the animals, they only care about their health. I care about the animals and the environment and my health and everything. That’s why I use this term ‘ethical veganism’ because, for me, veganism is a belief and affects every single aspect of my life.

Like vegans, ethical vegans eat a plant-based diet, but they also try to avoid wearing clothing made from leather or wool, or using toiletries tested on animals. Mr Casamitjana says he told his managers at the League Against Cruel Sports that its pension funds wee being invested in companies testing products on animals, but that nothing happened.

The League Against Cruel Sports said:

Mr Casamitjana was dismissed from his position because of gross misconduct. To link his dismissal with issues pertaining to veganism is factually wrong. Mr Casamitjana is seeking to use his veganism as the reason for his dismissal. We emphatically reject this claim.

Should the employment tribunal decide that veganism is a philosophical belief that should be protected, Mr Casamitjana’s case would proceed to a full trial.

Philip Richardson, partner and head of employment law at Stephensons, commented,

For the thousands of people who identify as vegan and their employers, this is a significant and important case. Case law has already held that if a person’s beliefs attain a certain level of “cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”, they are protected. As veganism is a firmly and genuinely held belief, rather than opinion, Mr Casamitjana has a solid argument to bring about a discrimination claim against his employer.

Mr Casamitjana’s case underlines the need for more clarity around protected characteristics, not only for those who feel they have been discriminated against, but also their employers. It still amazes me just how blind many employers are to protected characteristics and the implications when an employee speaks out.

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