What is philosophical belief discrimination?

by Direct2Lawyers on August 20, 2012

  • SumoMe

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:

  1. What is philosophical belief discrimination?
  2. What is a philosophical belief?
  3. How do I know if I’m being discriminated against on the grounds of a philosophical belief I hold?
  4. 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:

  1. Worker A’s employer must know that he holds this belief
  2. The belief must not be simply an opinion or a viewpoint based on present facts
  3. The belief must be on a weighty or substantial matter; and
  4. 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

Direct2Lawyers offer free employment law advice for employees  and free employment law advice for employers. They also offer compromise agreement advice

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