An employment tribunal in the United Kingdom ruled that a hospital created a "hostile and intimidating environment" when it demanded a Chistian nurse get rid of a small cross necklace, forcing her to quit her job.
"This has always been an attack on my faith. My cross has been with me for 40 years. It is part of me, and my faith, and it has never caused anyone any harm," former nurse Mary Onuoha, 61, told the Daily Mail following the tribunal's decision. "At this hospital there are members of staff who go to a mosque four times a day and no one says anything to them.
"Hindus wear red bracelets on their wrists, and female Muslims wear hijabs in theatre. Yet my small cross around my neck was deemed so dangerous that I was no longer allowed to do my job. I am a strong woman, but I have been treated like a criminal."
Onuoha, a Christian from Nigeria, worked for 18 years as a surgical nurse at Croydon University Hospital, a part of the National Health Service in the U.K., providing care to people at their homes and schools, and at health clinics. She worked at Purely War Memorial Hospital as well as Croydon, according to the organization.
She told the Daily Mail that since 2015, the hospital took issue with her cross necklace, at one point stopping a surgery to tell her to take it off, claiming it violated the facility's health and safety policies.
The pressure became so great, Onuoha quit the job in 2020 after a "succession of managers" threatened to "escalate" her refusal to remove it.
Lawyers representing the nurse countered that she was still required to wear a series of hospital lanyards around her neck during her workday with identification cards and keys, which were much bulkier than her cross.
The tribunal hearing the case found that the hospital "unfairly" discriminated and dismissed Onuoha with "no cogent explanation" as to why others were still allowed to wear jewelry while she was not, and why she was subject to discipline for it.
"In our view the conduct which we have identified as amounting to harassment and/or direct discrimination individually or cumulatively was sufficiently serious so as to be likely to destroy or seriously undermine the relationship of trust and confidence," the tribunal's ruling said. "We do not accept that the Respondent had reasonable and proper cause for its conduct.
"There was a broad health and safety objective underlying much of the conduct. However, given the inconsistency of treatment between employees wearing other items of religious and non-religious apparel that had no work-based function but had a comparable risk profile, that simply did not justify the treatment of the Claimant."
Another hearing will be held to determine a remedy for Onuoha, according to the article.
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