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26 May 2016 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

Discipline for imposing religious views was not discriminatory

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

In Wasteney v East London NHS Foundation Trust the EAT has upheld a Tribunal decision that disciplinary action taken against a Christian senior manager for imposing her religious views on a Muslim junior employee was not discriminatory. The junior employee complained that she felt the manager was “grooming” her by praying with her and inviting her to church services. The Tribunal and the EAT found that the employer was entitled to consider this serious misconduct, namely the blurring of the professional boundaries and the subjection of a junior colleague to improper pressure and unwanted conduct.

The Claimant was a born-again Christian who set up an initiative for volunteers from her church to provide religious services at the mental health facility where she worked. However subsequent concerns led the trust to suspend the services and to informally warn the Claimant about the necessity to maintain appropriate boundaries between her professional and her personal life. A couple of years later a complaint was made about the Claimant by an occupational therapist who was Muslim. She complained that the Claimant had invited her to church events; sent her religious DVDs and tickets to church events; told her that she should “let Jesus into her life”; gave her a book about a Muslim Pakistani woman who had converted to Christianity; and prayed over her and laid hands on her by touching her knee. The woman claimed that the Claimant’s conduct made her feel ill and that she was being groomed. The trust investigated and concluded that 3 allegations against her were established and that she had failed to maintain proper professional boundaries. She was given a final written warning which was downgraded to a first written warning; nonetheless she brought claims of direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of religious belief to an Employment Tribunal. These were rejected because the Tribunal was satisfied that the trust would have taken a similar approach had the Claimant been pressing beliefs which were non-religious. The EAT agreed when she appealed and dismissed the appeal.

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