“Ethical Veganism” Declared Covered By Employment Anti-Discrimination Law!

Well, not in the US.  At least, not yet.

Progress, as many believe, might be measured by who gets protected in the workplace under the anti-discrimination laws, such as (without limitation), Title VII, the ADA or the ADEA.  That is, among other things, which classes of people, or which people who possess what characteristics, or which people who identify with what beliefs or lifestyles or gender, deserve protection in the workplace.  The Supreme Court is right now wrestling with the issue of whether sexual orientation and/or gender identification is covered by Title VII.

But I am not aware of any American jurisdiction which covers people who have non-traditional philosophical beliefs, as opposed to religious beliefs (the distinction between these two, if in fact there is a distinction, does indeed raise legal, ethical, moral, cultural and other issues that are beyond the ken of this blog).

However, in a case where an employee claimed that he was fired “after raising questions about pension fund investments in companies that test products on animals,” a British employment tribunal judge held that under the 2010 Equality Act, the British ‘s anti-discrimination law, ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and therefore covered by the law.

As reported in the LA Times, “Ethical vegans go beyond eating a plant-based diet to try to exclude any form of what they believe is animal exploitation, including not wearing wool or leather clothes.” 

“[The judge ruled that the employee] met the legal criteria for being considered a protected belief under the same section of the Equality Act that prohibits religious discrimination. … [The judge] found the beliefs held by ethical vegans to be worthy of respect, compatible with human dignity and not conflicting with the rights of others.”

The result, said the employee’s lawyer, is that “sanctioning workers for ethical veganism will be prohibited in the same way it is illegal to discriminate against workers based on their race, gender, age or sexual orientation.”

The employee said that “This is a very important ruling for vegans everywhere in the world that will inspire other vegans in other countries that don’t have that protection to develop cases that will lead to that protection.”

Will that protection come to the US?

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]