British Airways employee wins landmark legal battle

09:20 15 January 2013

British Airways employee Nadia Eweida. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

British Airways employee Nadia Eweida. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

British Airways employee Nadia Eweida, who claimed she suffered discrimination at work because of her faith, has won a landmark legal battle at the European Court of Human Rights.

The 60-year-old employee claimed she suffered discrimination at work because of her faith.

She took the airline to a tribunal after she was forced out of her job for wearing a cross in breach of company uniform codes.

Her case was rejected in Britain but today European judges found in her favour. They ruled against three more Christians who launched similar action.

Miss Eweida, from Twickenham, was sent home from her job in September 2006 for displaying a small silver cross on a chain around her neck which she wore as a personal expression of her faith.

She took British Airways to a tribunal but a panel rejected her claims and ruled she was not a victim of religious discrimination.

The decision was upheld by The Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court before Miss Eweida took her fight to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

She returned to work in customer services at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 in February 2007, after BA changed its uniform policy on visible items of jewellery.

At the ECHR, Miss Eweida argued BA’s action contravened articles nine and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibit religious discrimination and allow “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.

Lawyers for the government, which contested the claim, argued her rights were only protected in private.

But judges today ruled there had been a violation of article nine (freedom of religion), by five votes to two.

They rejected the case of nurse Shirley Chaplin, 57, who was switched to a desk job after she also refused to remove a crucifix which she wore with her uniform.

Marriage counsellor Gary McFarlane, 51, who was sacked for saying he might object to offering sex therapy to homosexuals, and Islington registrar Lillian Ladele, who was disciplined when she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies, also lost their legal action.

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