Philosophical Belief Discrimination

In the case of Gray v Mulberry, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that if a single employee holds a philosophical belief and is unable to establish a group disadvantage, then they cannot succeed in a claim of indirect discrimination.

The employee, Ms Gray worked for Mulberry and was asked to sign an agreement which stated that she would assign the copyright and other proprietary rights to Mulberry in respect of her work. Ms Gray refused to sign as she believed that the intellectual property agreement would interfere with her own work as a writer and film-maker. Despite the fact that Mulberry agreed to amend the agreement to cover only work which related to its business, Ms Gray still refused to sign.

Ms Gray was subsequently dismissed for refusing to comply with the conditions of her employment.

As a result of this, Ms Gray brought claims for direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of belief. She claimed that her belief in the importance of copyright laws was a philosophical belief and therefore a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

The Employment Tribunal rejected her claims, holding that her philosophical belief was not sufficiently cohesive to qualify under the Equality Act 2010. Ms Gray’s direct discrimination claim was rejected as a result of her failure to sign the agreement and not because of her philosophical belief. Mulberry had not been informed of her philosophical belief until she issued claims of discrimination. Ms Gray’s indirect discrimination claim was dismissed because the provision, criterion or practice (PCP) of requiring employees to sign the agreement did not put a group of people at a disadvantage.

Ms Gray appealed this decision, however the EAT upheld the Employment Tribunal’s ruling. The EAT held that the Employment Tribunal had not erred in its decision as it had correctly concluded that there was no group disadvantage. In addition, Mulberry could not have known that the obligation on employees to sign an intellectual property agreement may have affected a group of people of which it had no knowledge.

This case is useful as it provides an example of a philosophical belief that is not afforded protection under the Equality Act 2010.

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