University of York Fails To Get Anti-Tobacco Philosophical Belief Case Struck Out

Following a preliminary hearing, the University of York has failed to get an anti-tobacco philosophical belief case struck out. This comes after Prof McCambridge claimed the University discriminated against his beliefs, protected under the Equality Act 2010. As a result, the claim will proceed to an employment tribunal hearing to determine whether the Professor’s beliefs are protected.

Below, we explore what qualifies as a protected belief by law and the facts in the anti-tobacco philosophical belief case. If you have any questions or believe your Equality Act 2010 protected beliefs have been discriminated against, contact us now.

Redmans Solicitors are employment law specialists and could discuss your circumstances before providing advice on how you could proceed.

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What is a Philosophical Belief?

Before addressing the facts in the anti-tobacco philosophical belief case, we will establish what makes a belief protected. Under the Equality Act 2010, individuals cannot be discriminated against or treated ‘less favourably’ because of their protected characteristics.

There are several protected characteristics, with one of them being an individual’s religion or philosophical belief. For a philosophical belief to be protected, it must satisfy the ‘Grainger test’, meaning it must be:

  • Genuinely held
  • An actual belief and more than just a mere opinion
  • Weighty and concern a substantial aspect of human life
  • Cogent, serious, cohesive and important
  • Worthy of respect in a democratic society whilst being compatible with human dignity and with the fundamental rights of others

Should the belief satisfy the above eligibility criteria, it could be protected under legislation. In such circumstances, employers mustn’t discriminate against the employee and must do all they reasonably can to protect against discrimination from others. Supposing the employer fails to abide by their legal obligation, the employee could file a claim against them at an employment tribunal.

The Anti-Tobacco Philosophical Belief Case

Prof McCambridge is the chair of addictive behaviours and public health at the University of York. The NHS has recognised him for his research on addiction, and they have previously awarded him for some of his work.

The anti-tobacco philosophical belief case initially came about when the Professor opposed policy interference from tobacco companies. This started in 2016 and 2017 when he criticised the University of York for their association with Prof McKeganey. That is because drug researcher McKeganey had previously received funding from Philip Morris, the tobacco company.

As such, Prof McCambridge reasoned Prof McKeganey’s relationship with the University would strengthen his credibility. In turn, he was concerned this would help the tobacco industry promote smoking, which could harm members of the public. In defining his belief, Prof McCambridge outlined that public health and scientific integrity required protection from tobacco industry interference.

However, this wasn’t the end of the anti-tobacco philosophical belief case, as claims of “serious procedural unfairness” were also raised. These claims concerned an investigation into the Professor’s conduct after a number of students had made complaints. The investigation report concluded Prof McCambridge was guilty of bullying and harassment, but he said this linked to his belief.

University Lawyers Attempt to Get the Case Struck Out

During the preliminary hearing, the University of York attempted to get the anti-tobacco philosophical belief case thrown out. Their lawyers tried to argue that “no sensible reading” of the Professor’s claim led to it being a protected belief. Despite this, employment Judge Ian Miller dismissed their argument. He explained how the matter was “very fact-specific” and that it was in the interests of justice to allow the Professor to argue his case.

Judge Miller also believed Prof McCambridge could potentially show he reasonably believed public health was at risk from tobacco companies. As such, the Judge felt the anti-tobacco philosophical belief case must be tried before a full tribunal.

Contact Redmans Solicitors today if you have any questions about philosophical belief discrimination or want to claim compensation. We have vast experience helping clients navigate the legal process and could advise on your possible next steps. What’s more, to help cater to different individuals’ circumstances, we offer several funding options.

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