November 1, 2019
In Gray v Mulberry Company (Design) Ltd, the Court of Appal has rejected the argument that a belief in ‘the statutory human or moral right to own the copyright and moral rights of her own creative works and output’ met the legal test of a philosophical belief.
In this case, the Claimant refused to sign an agreement containing a confidentiality clause and a clause assigning copyright in any works created during her employment to her employer. Despite the company making amendments to the agreement, the Claimant still refused to sign the agreement and so was dismissed. Along with other claims, the Claimant claimed that she had been subjected to indirect discrimination on the grounds of a philosophical belief.
The Employment Tribunal rejected the claim on the basis that the belief lacked sufficient cohesion to amount to a philosophical belief, but that even if it had, people sharing the Claimant’s belief were not put at a particular disadvantage. The Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected the initial appeal, as did the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal, agreeing with the earlier decisions, could also not see a causal link between the Claimant’s beliefs and her refusal to sign the agreement, the refusal arising from concerns that the wording of the clause in question was too far in her employer’s favour.
What meets the definition of a philosophical belief has expanded in recent years, but as this case demonstrates, there are limits and a belief must be sufficiently cogent, serious, coherent and important to qualify.