University of Bristol  v  Professor David Millar

Hello again and welcome back to our case of the week. Last week we looked at a race discrimination claim in the case of Dr Nicholas Jones v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Those that missed it can find it here. This week we’re looking at a landmark victory for Professor David Miller against Bristol University.

The Claimant, Professor David Miller, was employed by the Respondent, University of Bristol, as a Professor of Political Sociology between 2018 and 2021, having previously worked as an academic for more than 20 years. The Respondent’s website announcement described him as an investigative researcher who works on corporate power, lobbying, propaganda, Islamophobia, and the Zionist movement.

His academic work, including his PHD, had always been political and controversial and at the time he joined the University his views in relation to Zionism were well known.

The Claimant taught two undergraduate courses and delivered a lecture on Islamophobia. It was not general practice for the University to examine social science lecturers’ materials. The Respondent received a complaint from two Jewish students regarding the Claimant’s said lecture who were extremely upset as to what they felt was an antisemitic lecture. The Respondent received further complaints from the Bristol Jewish Society and the President of the Union of Jewish Students.

It was the Claimant’s position that he was subjected to a campaign by groups and individuals opposing his anti-Zionist views which was used to dismiss him. The campaign included a Zionist activist pretending to be a student in one of his classes in which she was not registered to attend solely for the purpose of political observation. He also asserted that the Respondent failed to support him or investigate the campaign but instead discriminated against him and dismissed him unfairly.

The Claimant’s claims of discrimination arose because he said his anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a protected philosophical belief under the Equality At 2010. The Respondent asserted the Claimant was dismissed for gross misconduct and therefore fairly dismissed because of statements made by him on social media in February 2021. The Respondent also argued his beliefs did not qualify for protection under the Equality Act.

The Claimant claimed direct belief discrimination, indirect belief discrimination, harassment related to belief, unfair dismissal, and wrongful dismissal.


The Claimant explained to the Tribunal that by the late 1990s his beliefs of Zionism were fully formed, which he defines as an ideology that a state for Jewish people ought to be established and maintained is inherently racist, imperialist, colonial and offensive to human dignity which is why he opposes it.  The Claimant made clear in his evidence to the Tribunal that his anti-Zionism beliefs are towards specific groups and not opposition towards Jews or Judaism in general.

The unanimous judgment of the Tribunal was the Claimant’s anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and as a protected characteristic pursuant to the Equality Act 2010.

The Claimant succeeded in his claims for direct discrimination because of his philosophical belief relating to his dismissal and appeal against his dismissal, unfair dismissal, and wrongful dismissal. The Claimant’s claim for indirect discrimination was dismissed and his claim for harassment was out of time.

The Claimant’s basic and compensatory awards were reduced by 50% as it was found his dismissal was caused or contributed to by his own actions.

The tribunal also found that there was a 30% chance that had the Claimant remained employed, the Respondent would have dismissed him fairly two months following comments he made on his social media.

Takeaway Points

The question for the tribunal in this case was whether the Claimant’s anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and was therefore protected under the Equality Act.

For a belief to amount to a philosophical belief under the Equality Act it must meet the following criteria: –

  1. The belief must be genuinely held.
  2. It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.
  3. It must be a belief as to weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
  4. It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion, and importance.
  5. It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

The Claimant’s academic work and expressed beliefs were fully formed and enough to satisfy the above criteria to be recognised as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act. However, the Tribunal will reduce awards if it finds that a dismissal was contributed to by the Claimant’s actions.

If you or someone you know are dealing with a similar issue, please contact us for further assistance.