In the case of of Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights found that the domestic authorities breached a woman’s freedom of religion rights to wear a crucifix – a visible symbol of her faith – in the workplace.
In this case, the applicant, an employee of British Airways who was told that the company’s uniform policy required staff members to conceal religious items that they had to wear under their clothes. The applicant lodged a claim of religious discrimination with the employment tribunal, which found that the visible wearing of a cross was not a requirement of the Christian faith, but was a matter of personal choice, and that she had failed to establish that British Airways uniform policy had put Christians at a disadvantage.
Her subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeal was rejected and, in May 2010, the Supreme Court refused leave to appeal.
The European Court of Human Rights however ruled that the domestic courts had not struck a fair balance between BA’s legitimate wish to project a certain corporate image and the applicant’s right to manifest her religion. In the particular circumstances, the Court concluded that the domestic authorities failed sufficiently to protect the applicant’s right to manifest her religion, in breach of the positive obligation under Article 9.
Article 9 provides:
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Article 2(2)(b) of the EU Framework Directive for Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation 2007/78/EC, provides:
“… indirect discrimination shall be taken to occur where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons having a particular religion or belief, a particular disability, a particular age, or a particular sexual orientation at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons unless:
(i) that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary, or
(ii) as regards persons with a particular disability, the employer or any person or organisation to whom this Directive applies, is obliged, under national legislation, to take appropriate measures in line with the principles contained in Article 5 in order to eliminate disadvantages entailed by such provision, criterion or practice.”
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Theodorou Law is a Cyprus law firm with Cyprus lawyers and other legal experts on legal matters involving Cyprus law, EU law and international law. The above should be used as a source of general information only. It is not intended to give a definitive statement of the law and is subject to the disclaimer.