Human Rights Victory for Christian British Airways Employee

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a British Airways employee suffered discrimination at work over her Christian beliefs.

EHCR Judges ruled that the rights of Nadia Eweida, a Coptic Christian from Twickenham, had been violated under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Along with 3 others, she took her case to the European Court of Human Rights after she was banned from displaying her white gold cross at work by BA.

Although she remains a British Airways employee  Ms Eweida did not attend work for a period of time in 2006 while an internal appeal was held into her refusal to remove her cross. The Equality Act 2010 "encourages employers to embrace diversity - including people of faith” and BA had already altered its uniform code, prior to the tribunal, to allow symbols of faith, including crosses.

The Judges ruled that the rights of three other Christians had not been violated by their employers. However, in the case of Shirley Chaplin, from Exeter, who was transferred to a desk job by Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital for failing to remove a confirmation crucifix on a small chain, which she had worn to work for 30 years the Court held that the importance of her being permitted to manifest her religion must weigh heavily in the balance. However, the reason for asking her to remove the cross, the protection of health and safety on a hospital ward, was more important and the interference was necessary in a democratic society and there was no breach of her Article 9 rights.

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The Court held that the domestic courts accorded too much weight to British Airways' desire to project a certain image.

Ms Eweida's cross was discreet, and there was no evidence that the wearing of items such as turbans and hijabs, by other employees, had any negative impact on British Airways' brand. In the circumstances, the State had breached its obligations under Article 9 in failing to protect Ms Eweida's rights.

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