Tim Nicholson was made redundant while head of sustainability at Grainger, Britains biggest residential property investment company, last July and he has now been given permission to sue his employers for unfair dismissal over their alleged discrimination against his views on climate change.
His commitment to green causes was recognised by an employment tribunal as a philosophical belief under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations.
Nicholson told the hearing that green beliefs affected every aspect of his life including choice of home and what he does with his waste. He also told the employment tribunal that his views on the environment prompted clashes with other senior executives, and led to his sacking. The full employment hearing will take place on June 4.
Former Environment Agency producer responsibility manager Jeff Cooper said the case could have implications for businesses who fail to implement environmental solutions like providing recycling bins, for example.
He said: As I said last year and now confirmed by the Employment Tribunal there is the strong possibility that Mr Nicholsons adherence to his green/environmental philosophical belief and his employers denial of that could lead to Industrial Tribunal cases. In my view this emphasises the need for every business on the UK to treat environmental issues as a fundamental part of their own business policy and practice. Therefore, when raised by employees these need to be addressed seriously and not dismissed arbitrarily.
International law firm Simmons & Simmons trainee solicitor Robert Norgrove said that the ruling had the potential to widen the scope of the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003 to include a conviction that climate change was the world most important environmental problem. He added: However, the ruling does not appear to state that the Regulations cover all green beliefs. The Independent reports the judge as saying Mr Nicholsons belief went beyond a mere opinion.
According to Norgrove, the objective of the Regulations is to discourage arbitrary behaviour or treatment at work on the grounds of a persons belief system. The Regulations prevent both direct and indirect discrimination.
However, no significant weight should be placed on the ruling. It is a preliminary judgement and the main hearing is on 4 June, and the defendant is considering an appeal.