A Christian employee of British Airways had her human rights breached by not being allowed to wear a cross to work, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled.
However, the ECHR ruled that three other Christians were not discriminated against by their employers after all four cases were heard together.
Nadia Eweida was sent home from her customer-facing role at British Airways in 2006 after she refused to remove a visible cross, which was at odds with the company’s uniform policy.
An employment tribunal had ruled that she had not been discriminated against on ground on religion; she subsequently took her complaint to the ECHR, which ruled that her rights of religious expression had been unfairly restricted by British Airways.
Three other Christian employees, whose cases were heard alongside Eweida’s, were found not to have been discriminated against.
- Shirley Chaplin, a nurse, was dismissed after she insisted on wearing a cross in breach of her employer’s uniform code.
- Gary McFarlane, a relationship counsellor, was dismissed for his objection to offering sex therapy to same-sex couples.
- Lillian Ladele, a registrar, was disciplined after refusing to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.
The ECHR announced that under art.9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, Eweida was found, by five votes to two, to have had her rights breached.
XpertHR FAQs on religious discrimination:
- If an employer requires staff to wear a uniform, what modifications should it consider to accommodate employees who practise different religions?
- Under the law outlawing discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief are company dress codes permissible?
- Can an employer ban jewellery from the workplace?
- What can an employer do if an employee refuses to comply with a dress code?
- In what circumstances could an employer’s requirements and conditions of the job lead to claims of discrimination?