You herb it here first folks; a new decision from the Employment Tribunal suggests vegetarianism is not a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010. Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd and others concerned Mr Conisbee, a waiter/barman who resigned from his position at a farm restaurant after an altercation over his un-ironed shirt in front of the customers.
Mr Conisbee did not have the two years required to raise a claim of unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal. However, he did raise a harassment complaint on the grounds of religion and belief for his belief in vegetarianism. The Employment Tribunal accepted that while Mr Conisbee was a vegetarian and he had a genuine belief in his vegetarianism, it was “not enough to have an opinion based on some real, or perceived, logic” to qualify for a religion and belief discrimination claim. Vegetarianism did not meet the requirements for protection under the Equality Act 2010 or the established tests in Grainger Plc v Nicholson UKEAT/0219/09. The tribunal found vegetarianism did not concern a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour as it is a lifestyle choice. It also found vegetarianism did not attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance as the reasons for being a vegetarian can vary between people. Interestingly, on this point the tribunal contrasted veganism, saying “the reason for being a vegetarian differs greatly among themselves, unlike veganism where the reasons for being a vegan appear to be largely the same” and that there was therefore a clear cogency and cohesion in vegan belief.
It should be noted that this decision is not binding on other tribunals but it does offer an example of how the Employment Tribunal are approaching religion or belief claims based on vegetarianism and veganism. We may be seeing more claims in the future of this nature as the world moves towards a more plant-based lifestyle and diet.
Discrimination claims can seem a complicated maze to navigate but if you need advice on possible discrimination issues, do not hesitate to get in touch with your dedicated Employment Solicitor.