Wearing of Religious Symbols

Here you can read an article on the prohibition of wearing religious symbols.

European Court of Human Rights, Judgment from 15.1.2013 (Case of Eweida and others v. the United Kingdom)

Facts: The plaintiff was an employee at the check-in area of the defendant's airline company since 1999. In 2004, the defendant introduced a new work uniform and ordered its employees among other things, not to wear religious accessories in public during working hours.

The plaintiff is Christian Copt and wore a necklace with a cross pendant. She decided to wear this necklace as a sign of her belief affiliation on 20.05.2006 for the first time in public over her uniform, but followed the orders of their superiors and covered the chain again. On 07.08.2006, she wore the chain for a second time in public and was instructed again to cover it. At that time, she was instructed that she would be dismissed unpaid upon her next violation of the dress code.

On 20.09.2006, the applicant finally refused to take the chain off or cover it and was then dismissed without payment until she would be willing to follow the instructions of the defendant. On 23.10.2006, the defendant offered her a position without customer contact and without a dress code. This offer was turned down by the applicant.

In mid-October 2006 the case became public and the defendant announced in November 2006 that it would review its dress code in terms of religious accessories. In January 2007, the company adopted a new dress code, which generally permits the open wearing of religious symbols, but requires a pre-approval. Certain symbols, for example, the cross or the Star of David are excluded from the requirement and can be worn without consultation. Subsequently, the applicant returned to her workplace on 03.02.2007.

The cause of action was the applicant´s paid vacation from 20.09.2006 to 02.02.2007. The applicant was considered to have been discriminated against by the defendant and to have suffered damages through salary loss. The defendant refused to compensate for the lost wages.

Judgment: By the applicant´s insisting on wearing her necklace with the cross, she acted on the basis of her religious beliefs and practicing these beliefs. This was offset by the interest of the defendant to present a certain image to customers through a unified appearance. The applicant's chain was inconspicuous and it is unlikely that this would have distracted customers. There is no evidence, that religious symbols, which other workers wore after approval, destroyed the uniform image of the defendant's company.

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