Office politics can be treacherous at the best of times.
From taking turns to make brews, to making sure the teabags are always fully stocked – and no, no one has stolen your favourite mug, it’s just in the dishwasher so calm down, Brenda – the drama that can arise from the simple task of making drinks for others is often way out of proportion with the act itself.
And while there will always be one or two people in the office who ask for very specific things when it comes to hot drinks, you wouldn’t think it would get so heated as to get a legal team involved.
However, one lawyer is trying to change that, as he leads a campaign to change equality law, which argues vegans should be exempt from workplace tea and coffee rounds because it’s ‘discriminatory’ to make them handle non-vegan milk.
A group of activists are claiming veganism should be respected as much as religion in the workplace, and should be recognised as a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act 2010.
Alex Monaco, from law firm Monaco Solicitors, told The Sun:
If you were Jewish or Muslim and told to get a round of bacon sandwiches in, no one would bat an eyelid if you refused.
But if you’re vegan and refused to buy a pint of milk to make tea because you believe the dairy industry is torturing cows, then you would be laughed out of the kitchen.
Many vegans go to the work canteen and find there is nothing there to eat which is plant-based. Or you’ll go on an away day, and you’ll find the sandwiches all have butter in them.
The 38-year-old lawyer is now offering free consultations to vegans who believe they’ve been discriminated against at their workplace because of their vegan lifestyle.
Vegans do get bullied – I was even bullied on a holiday with friends when I couldn’t eat anything from the butcher’s or pizzeria.
I’m not even particularly vulnerable – so how do you think a vegan on a building site could be treated?
Ah yes, the particularly vulnerable demographic of vegans on building sites…
The lawyers thinks the younger generation is more tolerant towards issues such as this, but still believes a change in law would help challenge vegan discrimination.
The tide is changing now. It’s a movement. If we can get the law changed, people’s views may follow on from that.
The 2010 Equality Act protects workers from discrimination in the jobs, as well as in wider society.
Anyway, just off to make a brew. Anyone want one?
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.