The EEOC defines religious beliefs to "include moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views." 29 C.F.R. § 1605.1. I think that covers some vegans and vegetarians who have moral objections to the treatment of animals.
The Court agreed, by holding that the plaintiff could move forward with her claim. However, this is only the motion to dismiss phase so the Court only held that it was plausible that she held her beliefs about veganism with a conviction equivalent to religion.
Bottom line: it's not enough to just ask "is Vegan a religion?" If the aversion to animal products is part of a set of religious beliefs then yes, it probably is a religion. If the individual has really strong beliefs on the subject even if it's not part of a specific recognized religion, then yes it is still probably a religion. On the other hand, if the employee just thinks "meat tastes icky" and cheats and has a burger now and then - or when it's something really important like a sweet new leather purse . . . then it's probably not a religion.
Enjoy some on-point links from around the blogosphere:
- Religious Accommodation Required for an Employee's Veganism? Maybe by Eric Meyer
- Firing "Religions" (Veganism) Raise Interesting Problems for Accommodation Requests by Jon Hyman
- 3 Employer Bummers including Veganism a "Religion" by Robin Shea
- Veganism Considered Equal to Religion in Employment Discrimination Lawsuit. Sorta Maybe for Now by Jason Das
- Court Holds Veganism Could Plausibly be Held a Religious Belief by Jamie Laplante
Image: Lettuce from Wikipedia under Creative Commons License.