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BA worker did suffer religious discrimination, rules ECHR

Wed 16 Jan 2013

A British Airways worker who claimed she suffered religious discrimination has won her case in Strasbourg.

Nadia Eweida, a Coptic Christian, had been asked by her employer to conceal her white gold cross that was being worn as a necklace.

When she refused to do so, she was placed on unpaid leave. Ms Eweida subsequently sued BA for discriminating against her on the grounds of her Christian faith, as Muslim and Sikh employees were not told to avoid wearing religious effects.

Although BA later updated its policy on wearing items related to a worker's faith, Ms Eweida took the case further because it did not pay her for the time in which she was suspended.

The dispute eventually went to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which has ruled in her favour and awarded her damages of £1,600 plus costs.

Sue Kelly, an employment partner at Winckworth Sherwood, said, “Although this case shows that employers must be careful how they approach restricting employees’ rights to manifest their religious beliefs, it should be noted that they can still strike a fair balance between competing rights. 

"The cases of the relationship counsellor who was dismissed for being unwilling to provide sexual therapy to gay clients, and of the registrar who refused to carry out civil partnerships for gay couples, heard by the court at the same time, were both dismissed.”

Prime minister David Cameron has been among those to welcome the ruling, writing on Twitter he is "delighted" that the "principle of wearing religious symbols at work has been upheld".

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