Unpopular philosophical beliefs may be protected!

A Professor has successfully claimed discrimination based on an anti-Zionist philosophical belief. His strongly held belief that Zionism is ‘inherently racist, imperialist, and colonial’ sparked anger among Jewish students who organised a campaign opposing the anti-Zionist views. He alleged that his employer failed to support him when, in response to the students’ complaint, he was dismissed. 

After hearing his claim, an employment tribunal ruled that the professor’s anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and therefore was a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

The Union of Jewish Students said it was “disappointed” by the decision which could set a “dangerous precedent.” The Community Security Trust, a Jewish charity, said it was “extremely concerned about what the tribunal considers is acceptable for a professor to say publicly about Jewish students and Jewish societies who raised legitimate complaints about him”.

A spokesperson for the employer said that they conducted a full investigation and that, after careful deliberation, concluded that the professor did not meet the standards of behaviour expected from staff. The employer has stated its intention to appeal the findings.

This is the second recent case which has found that potentially unpopular opinion can still be regarded as a strongly held philosophical belief, protected by the Equality Act.  It is an important reminder for employers to establish if there is sufficient reason to take disciplinary action when an employee publicly expresses unpopular views.  Contact us atenquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk if you have any queries on this subject.

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