international employment law firm alliance L&E Global
United Kingdom

UK: Discrimination: Philosophical Belief

Mr Corby, a senior mediator for Acas, posted on Yammer (a private workplace communications platform) that the “woke” or “critical theory” approach to racism is misconceived in that its belief in structural racism is divisive because it sees white people as a problem. He believed the better approach is that of Martin Luther King which desires a society where people are judged by their character rather than the colour of their skin, and which emphasises what people of all races have in common. Acas dismissed complaints by some of Mr Corby’s colleagues, including questioning his right to be employed by Acas, but instructed him to remove the posts which criticised the Black Lives Matter movement as some employees had found them offensive. Mr Corby subsequently brought a claim for unlawful belief discrimination.

An employment tribunal has held that his opposition to the critical race theory was a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010. Notably, the tribunal found that Mr Corby’s beliefs related, in essence, to the best way of eliminating racism in society and were clearly worthy of respect – and, even if some of his colleagues objected to them, his beliefs could not be described as incompatible with human dignity or conflicting with the fundamental rights of others.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-House Counsel

This is a tribunal decision, so it will not be binding on other tribunals.

This case highlights the challenges for employers in trying to accommodate employees with opposing views. It is important for employers to seek to encourage employees to respect their colleagues’  views even where they profoundly disagree with them.  It is worth emphasising the point once made by Lord Justice Sedley that a right to speak inoffensively is no freedom at all.