The Vegan Society has said that vegans should be given their own shelf in refrigerators at work and employers should protect them from offensive jokes about their dietary choices.
The recommendations come in the group’s guidance Supporting Veganism in the Workplace published this week. The document was written following a judge in an employment tribunal declaring last month that ethical veganism is a “philosophical belief”, like a religion, which should be protected against discrimination by workplace law.
The Vegan Society’s document recommends that staff requiring a uniform or special equipment, such as leather safety boots, should be offered non-animal alternatives. It also says that vegans should have their own isolated shelf in the work refrigerator — “above non-vegan foods” — so that their food does not have to touch meat or other animal products like milk or cheese.
The suggestions come as one employer, property developer Igloo Regeneration, said it would not reimburse food expense claims unless the meals were vegetarian in order to encourage staff to reduce their meat consumption for the sake of the environment.
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The original case sparking the guidance revolved around ethical veganism, a more extreme form of the lifestyle, and whether Jordi Casamitjana was fired from his job over his ethical veganism.
Judge Robin Postle had said: “I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.”
While the full case is still to be heard this month, Casamitjana’s lawyer said that the judge declaring veganism a philosophy equal to protection under the law like other ‘protected characteristics’ such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, will have a “potentially significant” impact in the workplace, including what jokes are considered hateful.
Lawyer Peter Daly had said that comments directed towards vegans’ choice of eating habits “might be seen to be harassment in the same way a racist or sexist slur might be discriminatory action”.
On this, the Vegan Society guidance recommends that it is the employer’s responsibility to “foster” a safe environment and “positive atmosphere” for vegans in the workplace and to intervene over jokes about veganism.
“Fostering a general attitude of respect towards vegan employees is key. If ‘jokes’ made about an employee’s veganism become burdensome, steps should be made to improve this. One way of assessing whether a co-worker has gone too far with comments to or about vegans is to consider what type of conversational behaviour would be deemed offensive to other individuals with protected characteristics, such as those who adhere to certain religious values,” the document says.
Referencing the Equality Act, the society said that vegans can be subject to “harassment” which can include “teasing and jokes”. The Vegan Society said that that “harassment” can include remarks between other people, even if the offended vegan just happens to be in earshot.
“Harassment does not have to be directed at the individual. For example, jokes or comments made between colleagues in the vicinity of vegans could constitute unlawful harassment,” the leftist organisation warns.
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