Grainger plc v Nicholson

Should employers be scared of Jedism?

I admit I had to laugh and wondered whether it was an April Fool’s joke come early.  I’m referring to the story in The Sun a few days ago about Chris Jarvis, the hoodie, who was refused entry to Southend Job Centre for refusing to take his hood down.  He complained.  Why?  Because he claimed that his religious beliefs had been infringed, on account of him being a member of the International Church of Jediism – i.e he believed he was a Jedi Knight.  The job centre subsequently apologised for offending him.  He is quoted as saying “Muslims can walk around in whatever religious gear they like, so why can’t I?” ignoring the obvious fact that Islam is one of the world’s great religions dating back to the 600s, as opposed to a science fiction film by George Lucas in 1977.  The clue, Chris, might be in the word “fiction”.   I would have had more sympathy with him had he argued about the increasing tendency of organisations to cite “security” with glib abandon where there is little risk posed.

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Climate change can be a philosophical belief

The case of Grainger PLC v Nicholson UKEAT/0219/09/ZT gained lots of media coverage, including the front page of today’s The Independent (“Green beliefs win legal protection”).  I covered the case when it was before the Employment Tribunal and Mr Nicholson initially won.  The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has rejected the company’s appeal and held that Mr Nicholson’s belief in climate change is capable of qualifying as a philosophical belief within the meaning of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. These regulations protect workers with religious or philosophical beliefs from being discriminated against because of their religion or belief.  This was a preliminary hearing on whether belief in climate change could qualify within the meaning of those Regulations.  Mr Nicholson still needs to return to the ET for the case on its facts to be decided.  That will include cross-examination of his beliefs to establish to what extent they govern his life.

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