A Christian employee of British Airways was on Tuesday awarded 2,000 euros as compensation for being prevented from wearing a cross at work, in a case that will have wider implications on the right to display religious symbols at work in the United Kingdom.
Nadia Eweida had taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg to fight for her right to express Christian faith.
In a majority judgement, the court ruled that “the domestic authorities failed sufficiently to protect the applicant’s right to manifest her religion, in breach of the positive obligation under Article 9 (of the European convention on human rights, which guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion).”
The 60-year-old had taken legal action back in 2006 after she was banned from displaying her white gold cross necklace at work and vowed to carry on her fight after she lost an initial appeal in the UK.
BA amended its uniform code in 2007 to allow employees to wear symbols of faith and Eweida, a check-in worker, has continued to work there for 13 years.
Three other Christian applicants — Shirley Chaplin, a nurse from Exeter, Lilian Ladele, a London-based local authority registrar, and Gary McFarlane, a marriage counsellor — who also claimed they had suffered religious discrimination lost their appeals with the ECHR.
In Chaplin’s case, the health and safety grounds on which she was refused permission to wear a cross by her hospital managers was deemed fair.
The appeals by the other two claimants were dismissed on the grounds that the disciplinary proceedings against both of them were justified.
Ms. Ladele was disciplined by Islington Council, in north London, after saying she did not want to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.
McFarlane, a Bristol relationship counsellor, was sacked for gross misconduct in 2008 after saying on a training course he might have an objection to discussing sexual problems with gay couples.
Following the rulings, Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “delighted” that the “principle of wearing religious symbols at work has been upheld,” adding that people “shouldn’t suffer discrimination due to religious beliefs”.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said the judgement was “an excellent result for equal treatment, religious freedom and common sense”.
“However the court was also right to uphold judgements in other cases that employers can expect staff not to discriminate in the discharge of duties at work,” she added.