Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

Christian airline employee loses cross ban appeal

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 lost her appeal against a ruling which allowed the airline to stop her wearing a cross at work.

Nadia Eweida, 58, wanted the Court of Appeal to overturn the ruling that she had not faced discrimination.

In 2006 she went home 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.

Lord Justice Sedley, giving the ruling of the court, said her case of indirect discrimination was defeated by BA's case on justification.

'Startling judgement'

He said: "This case has perhaps illustrated some of the problems which can arise when an individual asserts that a provision, criterion or practice adopted by an employer conflicts with beliefs which they hold, but which may not only not be shared but may be opposed by others in the workforce.

"It is not unthinkable that a blanket ban may sometimes be the only fair solution."

Lord Justice Sedley said Miss Eweida is a devout practising Christian who worked part-time as a member of check-in staff since 1999.

She made complaints about incidents between 2003 and 2006 which she claimed showed anti-Christian bias on the part of BA.

Human rights group Liberty said in a statement that the appeal court had upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal's (EAT) "startling" judgment of November 2008.

It found that banning Ms Eweida from wearing a cross was not discriminatory because Christians "generally" do not consider wearing a cross as a requirement of their religion.

'Religious tolerance'

Corinna Ferguson who represented Miss Eweida, said: "This is a disappointing judgment that will do little to build public confidence in equality laws protecting everyone.

"But this is just the sort of case that a Supreme Court is for and we have every hope that the highest court in the land will put Britain's long tradition of religious tolerance into modern legal practice."

A spokesman for the airline said: "British Airways is very satisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal, which yet again confirms that British Airways has acted appropriately and lawfully in relation to Ms Eweida."

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, said the failure of the appeal would lead to further cases of religious discrimination.

He said: "I believe it is not an exaggeration to say that people of faith are facing particular hardship in a period where different freedoms and rights are being tested against each other."

In 2004, the airline scrapped a high-necked uniform and introduced a new one, which could be open neck and prohibited the wearing of any visible item of adornment around the neck.

It introduced an amended policy in 2007 which permitted staff to display a faith or charity symbol with the uniform.



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SEE ALSO
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Christian appeals in BA cross ban
14 Oct 08 |  London
Airport worker loses cross case
08 Jan 08 |  London
Cross ban 'inexplicable' - Straw
23 Nov 06 |  UK Politics

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