British woman wins religious discrimination case

Nadia Eweida

An employee who was asked by British Airways to remove a Christian cross from around her neck has won a religious discrimination case at Europe's human rights court but three other claimants lost similar cases on Tuesday.

The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights will mean private companies will have to reconsider how they treat their employees' rights to express their religious beliefs in the workplace.

Nadia Eweida was sent home without pay from British Airways in 2006 for wearing a necklace with a small silver cross that the company said violated its dress code.

The court ruled that British Airways' request for Eweida to remove the cross "amounted to an interference with her right to manifest her religion".

Reacting to the ruling, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter: "Delighted that principle of wearing religious symbols at work has been upheld - people shouldn't suffer discrimination due to religious beliefs."

Cameron had pledged to introduce legislation allowing individuals to wear religious symbols at work in response to Eweida's case in July 2012.

However, Shirley Chaplin, Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane all lost appeals in which they argued that British courts had not protected their rights to religious expression.

Nurse Chaplin was told by her employers to remove a crucifix around her neck as it could cause injury if a patient pulled at it.

The court ruled that the reason for asking her to remove the cross - protection of health and safety on a hospital ward - was "of a greater magnitude than that which applied in respect of Ms Eweida".

Both Eweida's and Chaplin's case were originally dismissed by British labour courts.

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The two remaining cases pit gay rights against the right to religious freedom.

McFarlane was dismissed from a national counselling service when his employers judged him unwilling to offer sex advice to homosexual couples. The fourth claimant, Ladele, refused to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples as part of her duties as a registrar.

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