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BA’s ‘no visible jewellery’ policy not discriminatory

BA’s ‘no visible jewellery’ policy not discriminatory

In Eweida v British Airways Plc, the Court of Appeal held that BA’s policy requiring employees to wear jewellery under their uniforms did not indirectly discriminate against a Christian who refused to conceal a silver cross, as it did not place Christians as group at a disadvantage, and the policy was objectively justified.

BA’s uniform policy permitted employees to wear any jewellery they wished provided it was not visible. After refusing to conceal a silver cross worn on a necklace, Mrs Eweida, a devout Christian, was sent home without pay. She claimed indirect religious discrimination. The EAT upheld the tribunal’s decision that Mrs Eweida had not suffered indirect discrimination. To satisfy the first ‘hurdle’, she would have to show that BA’s policy would put persons of the same religion as her, Christians, at a particular disadvantage when compared to non-Christians, i.e. there must be evidence of group disadvantage. Given that no Christians at BA, or indeed anyone else, other than Mrs Eweida felt disadvantaged by BA’s policy, her claim must fail. However, the EAT agreed with the tribunal that if this had not been the case, BA’s policy could not be justified as a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the EAT’s ruling on indirect discrimination: the claim could not succeed. However, it disagreed that BA’s policy could not be justified. The disadvantage stemming from the policy affected just one person arising out of her wish to manifest her faith in a particular way and given that the policy had operated without objection for a number of years it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

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