Page last updated at 18:27 GMT, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Christian BA worker appeals against cross ruling

British Airways employee Nadia Eweida, 58, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London
Nadia Eweida says she was placed at a disadvantage due to her beliefs

A Christian British Airways (BA) employee has begun her appeal against a ruling which allowed the airline to stop her wearing a cross at work.

Nadia Eweida, 57, wants the Court of Appeal to overturn a ruling that BA did not discriminate against her and claims £120,000 in damages and lost wages.

Miss Eweida, of Twickenham, south-west London, returned to work for BA after the firm changed its uniform policy.

The appeal judges have reserved their decision to a later, unspecified date.

She wants the court to overturn a November 2008 decision by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) that she was not a victim of religious discrimination.

The tribunal was told she went home in September 2006 after failing to reach a compromise with managers over the visible display of the plain silver cross on a chain around her neck.

The following year, the airline changed its uniform policy and Miss Eweida, a Pentecostal Christian who works in customer services at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, returned to work.

'Hijabs and bangles'

But, as she was unpaid during her absence, Miss Eweida claims BA should admit its previous policy was unlawful and pay her around £120,000 in damages and lost wages.

She argues that, while Muslims and Sikhs were allowed to wear hijabs and religious kara bangles respectively, she as a Christian had been asked to remove her cross necklace or hide it from sight.

Her counsel, Karon Monaghan QC, told the Court of Appeal the EAT ruling was wrong because it concluded any discrimination must disadvantage Christians in general.

She told the court the regulations did not require proof Christians as a whole would wish to wear a cross visibly, rather her client was placed under a disadvantage by not being allowed to.

But Ingrid Simler QC, counsel for BA, told the court the tribunal was right to dismiss Ms Eweida's claim.

She said BA's "flexible and sensitive" policy, which applied to 30,000 staff, did allow the wearing of a religious or any other artefact if it was concealed.

Ms Eweida was also offered work in a non-uniform post so that she could wear her cross visibly, but turned it down.

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