Philosophical belief discrimination

10 September 2018

Can a belief that only one person holds amount to a philosophical belief? No, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has decided in Gray v Mulberry.

Ms Gray refused to sign a standard contract assigning copyright in the work she produced whilst employed to Mulberry. She was scared that it would give them ownership of other written work she produced in her spare time. The contract was changed to exclude the other written work, but she still refused to sign it.

The employee claimed that her belief in 'the statutory human or moral right to own the copyright and moral rights of her own creative works and output' was a philosophical belief and protected under the Equality Act 2010. She said her dismissal for this belief was discriminatory.

To qualify as a philosophical belief, the belief must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cogency and importance. The belief must be similar in status or cogency to a religious belief. The tribunal said the belief in this case lacked the cogency needed to qualify under the Act. The Employment Appeal Tribunal confirmed that the tribunal had not set the bar too high when making its decision.

The EAT went on to say that even if this were wrong, the employee could not succeed in any indirect discrimination claim. The relevant policy or practice needs to put people sharing the protected characteristic at a disadvantage, not just the claimant. On the evidence, the employee was the only person to hold these beliefs. She would have lost her case anyway.

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