Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

15 January 2013

European Court finds British Airways discriminated against Christian employee

European Court finds British Airways discriminated against Christian employee
Nadia Eweida's employer British Airways stopped her from wearing a visible crucifix at work

Nadia Eweida's employer British Airways stopped her from wearing a visible crucifix at work

© Getty Images

Today’s European Court of Human Rights ruling that British Airways discriminated against an employee over her religious beliefs firmly upholds the rights to freedom of religion and expression, Amnesty International said.

Nadia Eweida, a Coptic Christian, took her case to the European Court after the airline stopped her from wearing a visible crucifix at work.

"Wearing religious symbols is an important part of the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. This welcome decision will hopefully reduce discrimination in the workplace against religious believers of all faiths," said Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination.

Amnesty International has documented many cases similar to Ms Eweida’s where Muslim individuals have been dismissed or not hired by private employers just because they were wearing visible religious or cultural symbols or dress.

Restrictions on religious and cultural symbols and dress have often been justified by private employers in countries including Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland on the basis that they were necessary for performing occupational tasks and activities.

"This notion has unfortunately often been used as a smokescreen to discriminate against religious believers,” said Marco Perolini.

"Of course there are cases where employers may put in place rules to restrict their employees wearing religious symbols in the workplace, but there should always be a legitimate aim for doing so and the restriction should always be proportionate and necessary to the aim sought."

In the same ruling, the Court found that the rights of three other Christian employees were not violated.

Ms Ladele and Mr McFarlene argued that their dismissal, justified by their employers of the basis of their refusal to conduct same sex civil partnership and to provide relationship counselling to same sex couples, amounted to discrimination on the ground of their Christian beliefs.

In these cases the employees refused to carry out tasks that were essential in the context of their functions. 

“The right to freedom of religion or belief can be restricted with the aim of protecting the rights of the others, which include the right to be free from discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation” said Marco Perolini.


Business And Human Rights 
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 
Freedom Of Expression 




Europe And Central Asia 

Follow #uk @amnestyonline on twitter


19 December 2014

A flurry of activity by UN member states to sign and ratify the global Arms Trade Treaty before it enters into force next week is another clear sign of the overwhelming... Read more »

18 December 2014

The rights of migrants are being trampled across the globe as they face economic exploitation, discrimination and racism in a range of countries.

Read more »
22 December 2014

Pakistan's reported plans to execute 500 more people are “deeply disturbing” and would do nothing to protect civilians from the conflict with the Taliban.

Read more »
24 December 2014

Pro-Kyiv volunteer battalions are increasingly blocking humanitarian aid into eastern Ukraine in a move which will exacerbate a pending humanitarian crisis in the run up to... Read more »

23 December 2014

Torture, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, suffered by women and girls from Iraq’s Yezidi minority who were abducted by the armed group calling itself the... Read more »