Do Green Beliefs Have the Same Legal Rights as Religious Beliefs?


It’s a question we may hear asked more and more. Judges in England recently had to decide whether green beliefs have the same rights and protections as religious or philosophical beliefs.

The case in question is between an environmentalist, Tim Nicholson, who claims he was unfairly dismissed because of his “philosophical belief about climate change and the environment,” and his former employer, Grainger plc, who maintains that the dismissal was based “Solely by the operational needs of the company during a period of extraordinary market turbulence.”

Nicholson, who says his green beliefs affects the way he lives his whole life, wants to seek compensation from Grainger for unfair dismissal. In order to do so, he needed the court to rule on whether he could use the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations, 2003 – special legislation which protects people’s rights to hold religious and philosophical beliefs at work – to bring his case to the employment tribunal.

In March of this year, at a pre-hearing review, an employment judge held the view that it did.

Grainger appealed against this, arguing that Nicholson’s views were not the same as religious or philosophical beliefs.

At the appeal, Mr Justice Burton confirmed the early view saying, “If a person can establish that he holds a philosophical belief which is based on science as opposed, for example, to religion, then there is no reason to disqualify it from protection.”

It’s a landmark decision which will, for the first time, provide to employees who believe that they are being discriminated against for having strong environmental views the right to bring compensation claims against their employers.

What do you think?