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Redefining justification defences in religious discrimination claims

Last week’s religious discrimination ruling marks a turning point for human rights in the employment sphere but further clarification is still needed on the reach of the justification defence, says Darren Newman

18 January 2013

There is much more to the case of Eweida and others v UK decided by the Strasbourg court last week than the right to wear a cross at work. As the implications of the case unfold over the coming years we may come to see this as the point at which human rights law and employment law met and joined forces.

There were four cases before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which the court combined into one. Nadia Eweida was a check-in assistant who was sent home without pay for some months because she refused to comply with the BA uniform policy and cover the small silver cross which she wore as a necklace. Shirley Chaplin was a nurse who insisted on wearing a small crucifix on a chain around her neck and who was moved to work with no patient contact because wearing the necklace violated her employer’s health and safety rules. The other two cases concerned Lilian Ladele – a registrar who was threatened with disci...

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