Former worker takes court action against Orchard Park

Orchard Park Garden Centre is being taken to court by a former worker for discrimination in the workplace.

Joe "Dirty Nails" Hashman is arguing that his anti-hunting beliefs deserve protection in the workplace. The professional gardener and writer is suing Orchard Park Garden Centre, of Gillingham, Dorset, for discrimination on the grounds of philosophical belief.

The centre's joint owners Sheila and Ron Clarke support the South and West Wiltshire Hunt and company secretary Lucinda Stokes is the former joint master of the hunt.

Hashman, of nearby Shaftesbury, is seeking £50,000 for loss of earnings and injury to feelings. He worked at the centre from March 2009 designing a grow your own display on a non-contract basis.

He claims that his concern about the environment, animal rights, veganism and, in particular, his opposition to hunting, amount to a philosophical belief under the Employment Equality (Religion & Belief) Regulations 2003.

The case will be heard at to Southampton Employment Tribunal in mid January. Legal papers allege that Orchard Park Garden Centre managing director Richard Cumming confirmed that his contract had been terminated because Stokes and the Clarkes were unhappy that the claimant was working for Orchard Park because he was a hunt saboteur.

Hashman said: "I don't think anyone should be discriminated against at work because of their views on issues such as hunting."

Cumming, who contests Hashman's claims, said: "He was not employed by us and was just in one day a week self-employed and he invoiced us. His going was purely coincidental. We're having to pay the costs of fighting this. Other companies could find themselves in similar situations."

In 2008, Hashman won £10,000 in compensation after succeeding in an unfair dismissal claim against Shaftesbury Town Council after he was sacked from his post as head groundsman after a row with a pest controller over pigeons nesting on the town hall balcony.

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