The EAT has upheld the Tribunal’s decision in Wasteney -v- East London NHS Foundation Trust 2016 that a written warning given to an employee for inappropriately imposing her religious views on a junior colleague was not discriminatory.
Ms Wasteney was an NHS manager. Having already been given an informal warning by the Trust about the need to set appropriate boundaries between her spiritual and professional lives, a complaint was made by a junior colleague of Muslim faith. The junior employee complained that Ms Wasteney had frequently invited her to church events, sent her religious DVDs and tickets to church events, told her that she needed to ‘let Jesus into her life’, given her a book about a Muslim Pakistani woman who had converted to Christianity, and prayed for her in a one to one meeting. The Trust commenced disciplinary proceedings and gave Ms Wasteney a final written warning, which was downgraded to a first written warning on appeal.
The Tribunal held that this did not amount to religious discrimination; the Trust had not taken disciplinary action because Ms Wasteney was a Christian, but rather because of the inappropriate manner in which her beliefs were manifested. Ms Wasteney was in a position of authority and the conduct had been unwanted.
Ms Wasteney appealed, arguing that the Tribunal had not properly recognised her right under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights to manifest her religious belief. The EAT noted that the manifestation relied on by Ms Wasteney was ‘sharing her faith with a consenting colleague’; the Tribunal had expressly rejected the assertion that the junior colleague consented to the conduct. The Tribunal had expressly found that the reason for the disciplinary action was that Ms Wasteney’s conduct blurred professional boundaries and placed improper pressure on a junior employee. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.