Workplace rights: Feeling the heat

Will workers be able to claim for discrimination against their green beliefs under religious equality laws?

by Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors - e-mail:

Environmentalism is the new religion, it's said, but a ruling due from the Employment Appeal Tribunal could make that truer than ever. It will establish whether employees can use religious equality laws to claim discrimination on grounds of their green convictions. Tim Nicholson was head of sustainability at property investment company Grainger till made redundant last year. He claimed that his strong environmental principles had put him at odds with other managers, prompting his dismissal. A tribunal decided that his case could be considered under the 2003 Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations because it was based on a 'philosophical belief'. His views went beyond scientific opinions and amounted to a profound belief system and moral order similar to religions, the tribunal said. Whatever the outcome of the company's appeal, issues of climate change are likely to trigger more workplace disputes. Employees might, for instance, claim they've suffered for 'blowing the whistle' on environmental malpractice.

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