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British Airways cross controversy

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British Airways cross controversy refers to a public dispute between British Airways (BA) and one of their employees over its uniform policy. The case has been widely reported in the UK media because various groups[vague] have argued that it shows either anti-Christian prejudice in the UK,[1] or alternatively, favouritism towards people of faith.[2][3]

Initial dispute

In October 2006, Nadia Eweida, a Christian employee of British Airways, was asked to cover up a necklace which depicted a Christian cross, and was placed on unpaid leave when she refused either to do so or to accept a position where she did not have to cover it up. She was wearing the necklace on the outside of her uniform, contravening BA's uniform policy for jewellery. Eweida planned to sue the airline for religious discrimination. Some Christian groups accused British Airways of double standards, as Sikh and Muslim employees are not prevented from wearing religious garments at work, since these are impractical to cover up.[4] Though the wearing of garments is required from some faiths, the wearing of jewellery is not in Christianity.

Eweida lost an initial appeal to her employers on 20 November, but publicly stated she would continue to dispute BA's policy, and that she wished to wear the cross to manifest her religion:[5] the BBC quoted her as saying, "It is important to wear it to express my faith so that other people will know that Jesus loves them."[6]

The National Secular Society declared it sensible for staff handling baggage to be prohibited from wearing jewellery over their uniforms, suggested that Eweida was trying to evangelise in the workplace[7] and said that BA should have the right to insist that its uniform is neutral.[8][9]

BA, having had the same policy with regard to jewellery being worn with the uniform for a long time, with which other staff were comfortable, responded to pressure and announced on 25 November a review of its uniform policy which could allow the wearing of a lapel badge. The Archbishop of Canterbury disclosed that the issue had been raised with the Church Commissioners, who look after Anglicans' financial interests.[10] The following day Eweida declared that this compromise was unacceptable to her.[11]

On 28 November, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, publicly stated that in his view the issue was not worth BA fighting and that it would be best for the airline "just to do the sensible thing": i.e. allow the cross to be worn.[12][13]

BA policy change and subsequent employment tribunal

On 19 January 2007 BA announced that they would in future allow employees to wear a symbol of faith "openly" on a lapel pin, "with some flexibility ... to wear a symbol of faith on a chain".[14][15]

Employment tribunal

Despite BA's change of policy, Eweida opted to pursue her case against BA at an employment tribunal, citing the original BA ruling as a form of discrimination against Christians.[16]

On 8 January 2008, after rejecting an out of court settlement offer reported at £8,500, Eweida lost her case. It was rejected on the grounds that she had breached the firm's regulations without good cause.[17] The tribunal commented that it was "not a tribunal of faith".[18] The tribunal's report highlighted several other issues regarding Eweida's conduct at BA, including refusing to work on Christmas Day and telling a gay man he could still be "redeemed".[19]

Eweida has indicated that she will continue to fight her employers while retaining her position at the company,[20]

References

  1. "Woman to sue BA in necklace row". BBC News. 2006-10-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6052608.stm. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  2. "Editorial: Christian Bullies Press Their Advantage". National Secular Society. 2006-11-26. http://www.secularism.org.uk/editorialchristianbulliespressth.html. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  3. "BA needs defending from religious zealots, not the other way round". National Secular Society. 2008-01-18. http://www.secularism.org.uk/baneedsdefendingfromreligiouszea.html. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  4. "Woman to sue BA in necklace row". BBC News. 2006-10-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6052608.stm. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  5. "Woman loses fight to wear cross". BBC News. 2006-11-20. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6052608.stm. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  6. "Archbishop attacks BA cross rules". BBC News. 2006-11-21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/north_yorkshire/6166746.stm. Retrieved 2006-11-25. 
  7. "BA Should Not Be Bullied Over Jewellery Ban, Especially by Government Ministers". National Secular Society. 2006-11-22. http://www.secularism.org.uk/bashouldnotbebulliedoverjeweller.html. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  8. "Archbishop attacks BA cross rules". BBC News. 2006-11-21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/north_yorkshire/6166746.stm. Retrieved 2006-11-25. 
  9. "Editorial: Christian Bullies Press Their Advantage". National Secular Society. 2006-11-26. http://www.secularism.org.uk/editorialchristianbulliespressth.html. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  10. "BA's climbdown follows tirade from archbishop". Daily Telegraph. 2006-11-25. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/11/25/ncross125.xml. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  11. "BA cross women vows no compromise as 92-per cent of public back her". ThisisLondon.co.uk. 2006-11-26. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23376019-details/BA%20cross%20women%20vows%20no%20compromise%20as%2092-per%20cent%20of%20public%20back%20her/article.do. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  12. "Blair chides British Airways for fighting employee over cross". The Guardian. 2006-11-28. http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,1958474,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  13. "Blair advises BA to end cross row". BBC News. 2006-11-27. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6188606.stm. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  14. "BA drops ban on wearing crosses". BBC News. 19 January 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6280311.stm. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  15. [1]
  16. "BA worker 'speechless' after losing cross case". The Times. 9 January 2008. http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article3158620.ece. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  17. "BA worker loses discrimination case over cross". The Guardian. 9 January 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2237603,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  18. Sandberg, Russell (2008), "Eweida v British Airways", Law and Justice 160: 56–59 
  19. "A cross to bear". The Guardian. 17 January 2008. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/terry_sanderson/2008/01/a_cross_to_bear.html. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  20. "British Airways worker loses discrimination battle to wear crucifix". Daily Mail. 2008-01-09. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=506963&in_page_id=1770. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 

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