Say you have an employee who shows up to work on time, does a good job, doesn’t stuff half the store into his pockets when he leaves work every day, but the dude hates hunters. Hates them so much he spends most of his free time thinking up ways to sabotage them, and actively crusades to make hunting illegal. Do you fire him? Legally, can you fire him? That’s the issue British courts will be taking up very soon.
From this story in the UK Telegraph:
_Joe Hashman, 42, is arguing that his anti-hunting beliefs deserve protection in the workplace. Mr Hashman’s undercover filming helped convict celebrity chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright of attending illegal hare coursing. The next day, the owners of the centre allegedly had him sacked by email because they were keen fox hunters. He was instructed not to bother coming back to work. The professional gardener is suing Orchard Park Garden Centre, of Gillingham, Dorset, for discrimination on the grounds of philosophical belief. The centre’s owners Sheila Clarke and Ron Clarke are keen supporters of the South and West Wiltshire Hunt, and its company secretary Lucinda Stokes is the former joint Master of the Hunt. Tensions were also allegedly heightened by the death of a keen local huntsman with whom Mr Hashman had regular run-ins over the years.
Married father-of-two Mr Hashman, of nearby Shaftesbury, is seeking £50,000 for loss of earnings and injury to feelings. Mr Hashman claims that his concern about the environment, animal rights, veganism and, in particular, his opposition to hunting, amount to a philosophical belief under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003. If Mr Hashman succeeds in his claim next year it could open the floodgates to other cases. His solicitor Shah Qureshi, of law firm Bindmans, said: If Joe succeeds, it will give protection to the many people whose belief in animal rights is central to the way they live. Employers would no longer be able to discriminate against them merely because of those beliefs.
It would confirm that, under the newly enacted Equality Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their philosophical beliefs about the sanctity of animal life and more specifically hunting. It would widen the categories of people who are protected by the law. Vegan Mr Hashman began attending animals rights demos in 1982 aged 14. He became a life member of the Hunt Saboteurs Association in 1984 and is a consultant on hunting issues for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. In 1999, the European Court of Human Rights overturned an English courts decision to bind over Mr Hashman for blowing a horn and shouting at a hunt, ruling that it breached his right to freedom of expression. He has appeared extensively on TV and radio, written for national newspapers campaigning against hunting and worked with organisations such as the RSPCA, Animal Aid, Compassion in World Farming and the League Against Cruel Sport. Mr Hashman has had several books published on fruit and vegetable gardening and was hired by the centre in March 2009 as a designer._
Now on the face of it the answer is easy: It’s their business and they can hire and fire whomever they want, right? But what if the roles were reversed? What if the owners were anti-hunters and the gardener was the hunter?