A British Christian woman suffered religious discrimination when British Airways told her not to wear a visible cross over her uniform, a top European court ruled Tuesday.
However, three other British Christians lost related religious discrimination claims at the European Court of Human Rights.
British Airways violated the article of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantees freedom of religion when it stopped employee Nadia Eweida from wearing her cross openly, the court said.
Eweida said she experienced discrimination from 2006 to 2007, when she started displaying the cross while working as a member of check-in staff. She was first sent home and then offered another role where she'd have no contact with customers. She refused to take it.
The airline changed its policy on uniforms in 2007 to allow employees to wear religious or charity symbols, at which time Eweida returned to the check-in desk.
In its ruling, the court weighed Eweida's desire to show her religious belief against the airline's wish to project a certain corporate image.
"While this aim was undoubtedly legitimate, the domestic courts accorded it too much weight," it said, referring to British Airways' position.
However, the court found that three other British Christians who argued they'd been unfairly dismissed from their jobs had not been subjected to religious discrimination.
They are nurse Shirley Chaplin, who also wanted to wear a cross at work, registrar Lilian Ladele, who declined to register gay civil partnerships, and Gary MacFarlane, a relationship counselor who did not want to give sex therapy to same-sex couples.
In the case of Chaplin, the court ruled that the concerns of hospital managers for health and safety outweighed the nurse's desire to wear a cross visibly in the workplace.