British Airways clerk loses crucifix row appeal

A British Airways (BA) check-in clerk who claimed she was religiously discriminated against for wearing a crucifix on a necklace has lost her appeal case.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld the employment tribunal’s ruling from earlier this year, that Nadia Eweida was not indirectly discriminated against on the grounds of her religion when her employer insisted the cross worn on her neckline be concealed by her uniform.

Eweida was suspended in September 2006, after she refused to conceal a small crucifix at her post at Heathrow Airport, claiming it was her human right to express her faith by having the crucifix on display. She returned to work in February 2007 after BA revised its uniform policy.

Eweida claimed discrimination on the grounds of her religion and had sought £20,000 in back pay and compensation from the airline. She said that she turned down £8,500 from BA to settle out of court.

The EAT said it was not a requirement of her religion that she should have to show the cross.

Beachcroft law firm has said the decision has clarified policy for employers. Rachel Dineley, head of the diversity and discrimination Unit, said: “What constitutes a religious belief [as opposed to a religious preference] can be a surprisingly very difficult question to determine. This case highlights a practical problem for both employers and employees when it comes to drafting and implementing company policy.

“As is observed in the judgement, a person’s religion or belief can be highly important and personal to them. What this case shows is that the challenge for employers is in devising a policy which, where appropriate, caters for a wide variety of preferences and practices, some of which cannot be foreseen.”

The BA policy at the time required that jewellery be worn only if it could be hidden from view.

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