Can you sack a vegan?

There has been a predictable furore over the recent tribunal decision that, for the first time, veganism is to be considered a protected philosophical belief. Vegans are a popular target for scorn from people who really should know better. Some of the responses have been wearyingly predictable and boil down to a simple misunderstanding that the ruling means it’s not possible to sack a vegan. So hold my coat while I break this down.

The case before the tribunal was that of Jordi Casamitjana, who claims he was unfairly sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports. His contention is that he was discriminated against specifically because of his ethical veganism.

For those of you at the back, thats different to dietary veganism, in that adherents also avoid any products such as clothes derived from what they see as exploitation of animals.

At this stage, no decision has been made about whether the League Against Cruel Sports was right to sack Mr Casamitjana, so much of the frothing at the mouth is entirely misguided.

The tribunal has merely concluded that ethical veganism itself should join the things against which a person cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. In effect, it is similar to the long agreed convention that you cannot discriminate against an employee on the basis of religious belief.

This does have implications for anyone who employees a vegan. As with religious groups, vegans are now protected under law from discrimination because of their beliefs.

That means avoiding bullying them for their ethical system which might include jokes or other potentially hurtful comments directed at them. It also might mean they can abstain from duties that conflict with their beliefs. To take a silly theoretical example, if someone spills a load of mince on the floor of the office, it would likely be considered discriminatory to request or demand that a vegan tidy it up unless the nature of the job itself routinely involves picking up mince.

The details of the exact case are yet to be decided. While Mr. Casamitja contends that he was sacked because of his beliefs, the League Against Cruel Sports dispute this and until a further tribunal hearing we will not know the outcome specifically.

However, it is true to say that you cant sack a vegan simply for being a vegan. But, you can still sack a vegan in the same way that you can sack any employee: only if it done fairly, with attention to due process, and where veganism itself is not the issue at hand.

Navigating this stuff is what I do for a living, so if you are thinking of sacking a vegan dont hesitate to get in touch!

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