The four Christians accusing their employers of discrimination
Four Christians who believe that they have suffered discrimination in the workplace because of their faith plan to take their legal fight to the European Court of Human Rights.
Photo: HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY
Nadia Eweida, a British Airways check-in clerk, was suspended by BA in 2006 for breaching the company’s uniform code. Mrs Eweida, then 55, had been employed by BA for seven years when she was effectively forced to take unpaid leave after refusing to conceal the symbol.
BA said that Mrs Eweida was permitted to wear the cross if it was worn concealed underneath her uniform, as stated in its uniform policy.
Mrs Eweida lost an initial appeal to her employer, but in 2007 BA caved to pressure and dropped its ban on wearing crosses.
Seeking to recoup money lost during the period of her unpaid leave, Mrs Eweida took BA to an employment tribunal alleging religious discrimination, which she lost. After two further failed appeals, Mrs Eweida will finally be heard by the European Court of Human Rights.
In 2009, former nurse Shirley Chaplin, then 56, was asked not to display her cross by the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation NHS Trust, in part because they felt it breached health and safety grounds because it could be grabbed by a patient.
Mrs Chaplin, who had worn the necklace on wards for 30 years, offered to modify the cross so that it didn’t breach health and safety grounds, but this was refused.
After the two failed to reach an agreement, the nurse was moved to a desk job.
She took her employer to a tribunal in 2010, which she lost, prompting her to take early retirement last year. Now she plans to take the case to Strasbourg.
In 2003 Gary McFarlane, then 48, was hired by the Avon branch of national charity Relate to work as a relationship counsellor.
Mr McFarlane’s superiors then learned that he was prepared to assist same-sex couples in relationship counselling, but was not willing to discuss sexual issues because of his religious beliefs.
In 2007, he was asked to confirm in writing that he would be able to provide relationship work where it involved same-sex sexual issues, but McFarlane responded that he was unable to confirm this. In 2008 he was dismissed.
Charity Christian Concern said Mr McFarlane "never refused" to provide sex therapy to a "live" homosexual couple, but had told his managers if such a situation arose he would discuss it with them.
McFarlane lost an internal appeal, then an Employment Tribunal, and made two applications to the Court of Appeal, which were refused.
He has now decided to take his fight to the European Court of Human Rights.
Lillian Ladele was a marriage registrar for Islington Council in London, but refused to conduct civil partnerships when they were legalised in 2004.
Operating effectively on a freelance basis, Miss Ladele, then 43, could choose which ceremonies she conducted until 2007, when the council changed the rules governing the registrar’s working conditions.
Miss Ladele said that the council was asking her to choose between her religious beliefs and her job, and was being accused of homophobia. She took the council to an employment tribunal in 2008 which found that she had been harassed.
Later that year, however, the Employment Appeal Tribunal reversed the ruling, and it was upheld again at the Court of Appeal in 2009.
After the Supreme Court refused to allow Miss Ladele another appeal, she has decided to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.