Two discrimination cases have been in the news recently: the headscarf-wearing hairdresser who was not considered for a job because she wished to keep her hair covered for religious reasons and a Sikh girl who was not allowed to wear a Kara (a steel bracelet with religious significance) because it infringed the school uniform policy. What lessons do these successful claims have for employers?
In both these cases, mistakes were made because the prospective employer (in the first case) and the school (in the second case) did not engage with the issues sufficiently carefully at the outset. But, if it is ever possible to derive hard and fast rules from decisions in this sensitive area, these are not the right ones to pick because they are both first instance decisions. More guidance may be forthcoming from the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) when its decision in Eweida (due to be heard on 14 October) is announced. That case, involving a Christian worker at Britsh Airways who was not allowed to wear a cross, was dismissed by the employment tribunal. Whatever the outcome of the appeal, it will make an interesting comparison with the EAT's decision in Azmi (concerning the use of a veil by a teaching assistant) which is currently the leading case in this area, though the facts were relatively unusual.