Cases testing the scope of what amounts to a religious or philosophical belief continue to reach the higher courts. In Gray v Mulberry Company (Design) Ltd the Court of Appeal found that an employee had not been discriminated against because of her belief in the statutory human or moral right to own the copyright and moral rights of her own creative works and output, except where that creative output was produced on behalf of an employer.
The employee, who was a writer and film-maker, was offered employment as a Market Support Assistant at Mulberry. Her contract of employment contained a relatively standard IP provision and copyright agreement. She refused to sign the copyright agreement because of concerns that it would interfere with her ability to work as a writer and film-maker. Mulberry confirmed that the copyright agreement only related to business of the Mulberry Company or works which arose from her employment, but she still refused to sign and was ultimately dismissed because of this. She claimed she had been discriminated against because of a religious or philosophical belief. Her claim failed before the tribunal and EAT, in part because her belief did not amount to a philosophical belief, and she appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal upheld the decision that there had been no indirect discrimination. Irrespective of whether the claimant's belief amounted to a philosophical belief, she had not been put at a disadvantage because of it. There was no causal link between her refusal to sign the agreement and her belief. The reason she had refused to sign the copyright agreement was because she wanted to obtain greater protection for her own creative works, not because of her belief. The Court of Appeal also upheld the tribunal's approach to whether she could show the necessary group disadvantage to succeed with an indirect discrimination claim. This was not a case involving a minority belief; a belief in owning the copyright of one's own works other than those produced in the course of employment was likely to be widely held. However, none of the rest of the employer's workforce had suffered a disadvantage from sharing the belief. This was not a case where the employer's PCP was intrinsically liable to disadvantage a group with a shared belief in the right to the copyright and moral rights to one's own creative output.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.