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Dress Codes and Religious Discrimination

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[Thanks to Louise Jones of 1 Temple Gardens for providing this case summary]

The Court of Appeal has ruled in Eweida v British Airways that by adopting a staff dress code which forbade the wearing of a visible neck adornment and so prevented the Appellant, Mrs Eweida, from wearing a small, visible cross with her uniform, British Airways did NOT indirectly discriminate against Mrs Eweida on the grounds of her religion.

The Court of Appeal rejected the submission that one individual person could be the subject of indirect discrimination, and noted that if a solitary employee could be indirectly discriminated against, this could, on a wide view, place an impossible burden on employers to anticipate and provide for what may be parochial or even facetious beliefs in society at large. The Court upheld that, for a finding of indirect discrimination, some identifiable section of a workforce, quite possibly a small one, must be shown to suffer a particular disadvantage which the Claimant shares.

The Court also found that, on the footing on which the claim had been advanced, namely disadvantage to a single individual arising out of her wish to manifest her faith in a particular way, the employment tribunal's findings of fact had shown that BA's staff dress code and the ban on a visible neck adornment, was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.