Christian nurse loses discrimination claim over refusal to remove crucifix necklace

A Christian nurse who refused to remove her crucifix necklace at work and was moved to a desk job as a result has lost a claim for discrimination.

Shirley Chaplin took the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital to an employment tribunal, and claimed it would “violate her faith” to remove the crucifix.

But the trust said the decision to move her to a desk job was due to health and safety concerns about patients trying to grab necklaces, not because the necklace included the Christian symbol.

The tribunal ruled in the trust’s favour, stating that the wearing of a crucifix was not a requirement of the Christian faith.

It added the employer had acted in a “reasonable'” way and had tried to reach a compromise, while the damage to Chaplin was “slight”, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The trust asked Chaplin to pin the religious symbol to the inside of her uniform, but she claimed this was asking her to hide her faith. When she asked to pin the crucifix on the outside of her uniform, this was rejected.

The case follows that of Nadia Eweida, a Christian British Airways worker, who lost her discrimination claim after she refused to remove her crucifix at work.

But Audrey Williams, head of discrimination at law firm Eversheds, warned employment tribunals could still rule that particular dress codes were discriminatory if enough people felt discriminated against.

She said: “Despite the outcome of this particular claim, there will be cases in which tribunals are prepared to accept that particular dress requirements are discriminatory.

“This is more likely to be the case where a significant number of a religion’s followers consider dressing in a particular way or displaying certain symbols to be either a mandatory requirement of their faith, or of exceptional importance.

“In those cases, an employer should expect to have to justify its policy and demonstrate that the need to insist on strict compliance outweighs any adverse impact on people of a particular faith.”

Lawyers for Chaplin said the ruling would now be appealed.

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