Is Climate Change a Moral, Philosophical Belief? And Can You Be Fired Over It?
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Tim Nicholson, former Head of Sustainability at Grainger, a UK property company, claims that he was let go in 2008 for his "strong" views on climate change and the environment, reports CNN. Turns out, Nicholson feels his dismissal was a form of discrimination against his beliefs and he's taking the case to court. It does seem a bit ironic to us that a sustainability officer would be fired for being...a sustainability officer. It would be one thing if the fella was at his wits end and chose to leave, but to be fired for environmental beliefs seems a little backwards. Here is where the story gets more interesting. Nicholson was fired back in 2008 and has since taken his case to court, alleging that believing in climate change and its future effects on the planet are more of a philosophical belief and therefore protected under the UK's Employment Equality (Religion and Beliefs) Regulations. Essentially, this climate change case has turned into an anti-discrimination case.
Grainger on the other hand disagrees, stating that Nicholson's climate change views are not philosophical beliefs, but rather scientific and therefore don't fall under the regulations. Can you discriminate between moral and ethical beliefs based on science versus faith? Lawyers for Nicholson say,
"The philosophical belief in this case is that mankind is heading towards catastrophic climate change and that as a result we are under a duty to do all that we can to live our lives so as to mitigate or avoid that catastrophe for future generations. We say that involves a classic philosophical and ethical position."
Not only was Nicholson fired, but he claims that leader in the company "showed contempt" for his beliefs and even taunted him. In one case, Nicholson claims the chief executive had a staff member fly from Ireland to London to deliver his blackberry. Nicholson was also unable to do his job, or establish a carbon management plan because he was denied access to the proper data.
With major corporations, even the outliers, these days abandoning the Chamber of Commerce ship for their "extreme" views denying climate change, it seems odd that anyone would be fired in this day and age for supporting it. Would you bite your tongue in the office if you knew corporate leadership didn't believe (or if it was bad for business to believe) in climate change? Or would you say enough is enough and take it personally when flat-earth-type-ideas are prominent?
To Nicholson, he has stopped using air travel, eats less meat, and made his house more energy efficient, in effect, changing his lifestyle for his beliefs. Does this constitute a philosophical belief? A judge just finished hearing the case, and a decision is expected in a few weeks.
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