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Jehovah’s Witness refusing to work Sundays not discriminated against

In Patrick v IH Sterile Services Ltd, a tribunal found that a Jehovah’s Witness had not been discriminated against on grounds of religion. He had been dismissed for misconduct and his poor absence/lateness record and the requirement for him to work Sundays was a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim.

Mr Patrick is a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He did not have to work Sunday shifts, his worship day, prior to December 2010, because agency staff were used at weekends. The company ceased using agency staff in December 2010 for quality and cost reasons. Employees with flexible working contracts then needed to cover the weekend shifts and Mr Patrick, together with other affected staff, had to work at least every other Sunday.

Mr Patrick was adamant that he could not work on Sundays. He acted in an allegedly intimidating manner towards his manager, including throwing Jehovah’s Witness pamphlets at her, raising his voice and throwing a chair across the floor. Because of these events and concerns about Mr Patrick’s lateness and absence record, he was dismissed. He claimed direct and indirect religious discrimination.

The tribunal rejected both claims. The reason for Mr Patrick’s dismissal was not because of religion. It was because of his aggressive conduct and his 15 days of sickness and 14 instances of lateness during his probationary period. The provision requiring Mr Patrick to work on a Sunday did place Jehovah’s Witnesses as a group, and him, as an individual, at a particular disadvantage, as it prevented worship on a Sunday. But, the company had a legitimate aim. It was contractually obliged to provide sterile laboratory services to its customers on Sundays, and sharing out the obligation to work on Sundays equally across the workforce was a proportionate means of achieving that aim.

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