Teacher at centre of veil row loses dismissal appeal against former employer Kirklees Council

Amina Azmi, who brought an unsuccessful claim against her employer after she was dismissed for refusing to remove her veil while teaching, has lost her appeal in the Employment 
Appeal Tribunal (EAT)

Azmi claimed that the decision to dismiss her was directly and indirectly discriminatory on grounds of her religion as a Muslim.

Her employer, Kirklees Council, argued that it did not treat her less favourably than it would have treated any other employee who was teaching with her face covered.

In October last year, a tribunal ruled that the school’s actions did not constitute either direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of the teacher’s religious belief, although a compensation payment was awarded to her due for injury to feelings. The EAT has upheld the original ruling.

Audrey Williams, partner and employment law specialist at Eversheds law firm, said: “This is an important ruling, confirming that employers have a right to restrict what employees wear in the workplace – as long as they have compelling grounds for doing so – even if this means preventing workers from manifesting their religious belief.

“However, employers should note that the circumstances in this case are quite specific – relating to the classroom setting, the nature of the teacher/pupil relationship, and the impact that wearing a full-face veil would have on a teacher’s ability to do their job.

“It does not automatically follow that a move to ban the wearing of full-face veils in other workplaces – for example, in an office or factory, would be lawful,” she added.

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