A flood of workplace reviews is expected following a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling which has said that a Christian employee of British Airways had her human rights breached when she was not allowed to wear a crucifix with her BA uniform.
The landmark judgment in the case of Eweida and Others v. The United Kingdom (Applications nos. 48420/10, 59842/10, 51671/10 and 36516/10) looked at the limits of religious freedom in the case of Nadia Eweida, a practising Coptic Christian, who lost her job with British Airways after refusing to keep her crucifix necklace out of sight when wearing her uniform.
In a majority judgment from the Court, it was said that Ms Eweida’s right to manifest her religion under article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights had been breached. Finding in favour of Mrs Eweida, the ECHR said that a fair balance had not been struck by the domestic Courts between her desire to manifest her religious belief and to be able to communicate that belief to others, and on the other side, her employer’s wish to project a certain corporate image.
The judges pointed to the fact that other BA employees had been authorised to wear items of religious clothing such as turbans and hijabs without any negative impact on BA’s brand or image. They also said that the fact that the company subsequently amended its uniform code to allow for visible wearing of religious symbolic jewellery showed that the earlier ban had not been of crucial importance.
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