A British Airways worker has lost an internal appeal against the company’s refusal to let her wear a Christian cross over her uniform, BA said on Monday.
Check-in staffer Nadia Eweida was told in October she must not display a small necklace crucifix over her clothes. She was instead instructed to hide it under her blouse or cravat.
The 55-year-old had appealed the decision, arguing she should be entitled to openly proclaim her Christian faith.
“In seven years I have not had any complaints from passengers about my cross being visible,” Eweida told Sky News.
Now on a period of what she calls “involuntary leave,” she said she would consult her lawyers over the possibility of a second appeal.
British Airways said it recognized that uniformed staff may wish to wear jewelry including religious symbols. But the uniform policy, which has been in place for a number of years, states these items should be worn underneath clothes.
“The policy recognizes that it is not practical for some religious symbols — such as turbans and hijabs — to be worn underneath the uniform. This is purely a question of practicality. There is no discrimination between faiths whatsoever,” the company said in a statement.
The airline said Eweida has been offered an alternative non-uniformed post, in which she would be able to wear her cross openly.
BA was criticized when news emerged last month that Eweida had been sent home for breaching company policy. Cabinet Minister Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, called the airline’s decision “loopy.”
The wearing of clothing or jewelry that identifies people with a particular faith has been a hot political issue in Britain since former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said last month that Muslim women who wore full veils made community relations difficult.
An employment tribunal subsequently ruled that a Muslim teaching assistant had not been discriminated against when the school where she worked asked her to remove her veil.
The case of the 24-year-old teaching assistant, Aishah Azmi, against Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire attracted nationwide interest after Straw’s comments.