Religious and philosophical belief discrimination is a fairly common problem at work. If you suspect that you’re being discriminated against at work on the grounds of a philosophical belief then you’ll want to know what your rights are and how you can potentially enforce them to protect yourself. This post will therefore look at:
- What is philosophical belief discrimination?
- What is a philosophical belief?
- How do I know if I’m being discriminated against on the grounds of a philosophical belief I hold?
- What should I do if I think I’m being discriminated against on the grounds of a philosophical belief I hold?
What is philosophical belief discrimination?
Employers (and vicariously their workers) are prohibited from discriminating against their workers under the Equality Act 2010 on the basis of a philosophical belief that a worker holds (lets call the worker we’ll look at in this post “Worker A”). Philosophical belief discrimination occurs when Worker A is subjected to a detriment because of or for a reason related to their philosophical belief. The manner that the detriment is applied can vary (i.e. it could be a case of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination or harassment, among others). What, then, is a philosophical belief?
What is a philosophical belief?
The nature of a “Philosophical belief” is constituted by both statute (the Equality Act 2010) and common law (cases in the courts and the Employment Tribunal). Worker A must first have a particular belief (say, for example, in climate change or the merits of investigate journalism). There’s no restriction on the type of belief (it can even be a lack of a belief i.e. atheism) that Worker A can hold but the belief must meet the criteria specified below to qualify for protection:
- Worker A’s employer must know that he holds this belief
- The belief must not be simply an opinion or a viewpoint based on present facts
- The belief must be on a weighty or substantial matter; and
- The belief must be genuinely held, coherent, serious, important and worthy of respect in a democratic society
Worker A’s belief that cuckoo clocks should be placed in every home would therefore not qualify as a philosophical belief (for any number of the above reasons). A belief in climate change or the merits or investigate journalism, however, have been held to constitute a philosophical belief.
How do I know if I’m being discriminated against on the grounds of a philosophical belief I hold?
You should first analyse what detriment you’ve suffered. A detriment is any disadvantage that you’ve suffered which is more than trivial. This may often be obvious (a demotion or a failure to promote you, for example) but can often be more subtle in cases of indirect discrimination. If you have suffered a detriment then look at the connection between what you’ve experienced and the reason that you’ve experienced the detriment – is the treatment that you’ve suffered because of or related to your philosophical belief? This issue of causality can often be tricky – employers seek to advance all manner of reasons to suggest that the treatment suffered was for some other reason than discrimination and it can often be difficult for Worker A to show the link. However if you are suffering a problem at work advice is recommended – get a employment law solicitor to look at your case.
What should I do if I think I’m being discriminated against on the grounds of a philosophical belief I hold?
Firstly, you should think carefully about your situation. Would your belief qualify as a “philosophical belief”? What detriment have you suffered? What leads you to believe that you’re being discriminated against rather than bullied or harassed because of a personality clash?
If you think you’re being discriminated against then submit a grievance to the appropriate person in your organisation. Also (as suggested above) get specialist advice from a qualified employment lawyer. You’ve only got 3 months less 1 day from the date that you suffered a detriment to submit a complaint of philosophical belief discrimination to the Employment Tribunal so you have to act quickly if you want to protect yourself
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