David Miller’s Anti-Zionist Beliefs are Protected Characteristics, Tribunal Says in Miller v Bristol Dismissal Case

In Dr David Miller v University of Bristol, the tribunal ruled the professor’s Anti-Zionism beliefs fall under the Equality Act 2010 protected characteristics. As such, they held the professor was unfairly and wrongfully dismissed. Below, we explore the case’s background, the employment tribunal’s judgment, and the subsequent reaction.

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David Miller Claimed he was Discriminated Against due to his Protected Characteristics

David Miller was sacked by the University of Bristol in 2021 following participation in a free speech event. This was after he’d already faced controversy in 2019 when he stated Zionism contributed to Islamaphobia in the UK. During the event, he discussed the criticism he’d experienced for his Anti-Zionism beliefs, leading to the University dismissing him for gross misconduct.

The University reasoned that the professor’s behaviour didn’t align with their expected standards. However, the professor disagreed, feeling his Anti-Zionism beliefs fell under the Equality Act 2010 protected characteristics. Therefore, he believed he’d been discriminated against, based on his beliefs, and unfairly dismissed.

Employment Tribunal’s Judgment on Protected Characteristics

The tribunal had to decide whether the Anti-Zionism beliefs of David Miller fell under the Equality Act 2010 protected characteristics. But before making a judgment, the tribunal outlined that they weren’t there to assess the merits of the political debate.

Subsequently, they applied the ‘Grainger test’ to determine whether the professor’s views amounted to a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. This meant contemplating if the belief was:

  • Genuinely held
  • More than just merely an opinion
  • Concerning a weighty, substantial aspect of human life
  • cogent, serious, cohesive and important
  • Worthy of respect in a democratic society, without being incompatible with human dignity nor conflicting with the fundamental rights of others

The tribunal explained that careful thought had gone into the views of David Miller. This was evidenced in his teachings and writings. As such, they ruled his views were genuinely held and more than just mere opinions. Moreover, they stated the political topic concerned a substantial aspect of human life, which was serious and worthy of respect.

Therefore, they ruled the Anti-Zionism views fell under the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010. As such, they found the professor had faced direct belief discrimination due to being sacked for his comments and unfair dismissal.

Despite this, the tribunal referred to the professor’s conduct prior to his dismissal as extraordinary and ill-judged. This was because after being cleared of Anti-Semitism, the professor continued to publicly “air his grievances” to students. Therefore, they believed he was “culpable and blameworthy” and reduced his unfair dismissal compensation by 50%.

A New Equality Act 2010 Precedent 

Following the landmark protected characteristics judgment, there has been a substantial public response. This is because Anti-Zionism now joins the likes of opposition to critical race theory as a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.

On X, formerly Twitter, David Miller stated the ruling “set a vital precedent that will help to protect pro-Palestine campaigners”. However, the scope of the judgment has been questioned by Kemi Badenoch MP, Secretary of State for Business and Trade. She stated that whilst the protected characteristics ruling allows academics to “express views”, it doesn’t provide “an excuse to display Anti-Semitism”.

And she isn’t the only individual who has brought up Anti-Semitism around the judgment. David Miller recently went on GB news, which questioned his links to Anti-Semitism through a media company he works for. Therefore, despite this Judgment establishing that Anti-Zionism beliefs fall under Equality Act 2010 protected beliefs, the controversy of the topic remains.

It will be interesting to see if the University will appeal the decision, but there is no guarantee the outcome will change. This means that, for now at least, the judgment creates a new precedent.

If you have faced similar circumstances and have been unfairly dismissed, contact Redmans Solicitors now. We have vast employment law experience and could uncover your eligibility to claim compensation. Begin your journey with us today by: