Decision: The EAT dismissed the claim of an employee who alleged unlawful religious discrimination. She was dismissed after holding an unauthorised training session, at which manifestations of her religious beliefs led to various complaints by staff. The EAT agreed with the Employment Tribunal that the Claimant was not treated adversely because of her religion but because of the way she had manifested her faith.
In reaching its decision, the EAT noted that there is no clear dividing line between holding and manifesting a belief. In the past it had been thought that employees could not be treated adversely for holding a belief but that a different approach might apply to manifesting a religious belief at work. This case shows that there is no such clear dividing line. Unjustified unfavourable treatment because an employee has manifested his or her religion may amount to unlawful discrimination.
Impact: This case highlights the fact that both the right to hold a religious belief, and the right to manifest it, are capable of being protected. However, in this case the EAT made it clear that the employee was dismissed because of the way in which she manifested her religion rather than the fact of manifestation of the religion itself. Employers are not necessarily entitled to prevent employees manifesting their religion at work. However, employers would be well advised, when restricting manifestations of religious or philosophical belief, to tread cautiously to ensure that they are able to justify the interference, even when employees are unable to claim unfair dismissal. However, if on a sensible and objective review, the manifestation of a belief is causing problems for other members of staff, this may form the basis for an employer curbing or otherwise restricting inappropriate manifestations of that belief at work.
Grace v Places for Children