Victory of a nurse sacked for carrying the cross

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Marie Onuoha

Source: Christian concern

The labor court on Wednesday issued a landmark ruling that an NHS Trust harassed and directly discriminated against a Christian nurse for wearing a small cross on a chain around her neck at work.

Supported by the Christian Legal Center, Mary Onuoha was told by the court that she had been victimized by Croydon Health Services NHS Trust following the grievance she raised over the discrimination she had suffered. He ruled that this violated her human rights and created a “humiliating, hostile and threatening environment” for her.

The outcome of the case develops a broader legal principle that employers cannot discriminate against employees for reasonable expressions of faith in the workplace.

In June 2020 Ms Onuoha was forced to quit her job as an NHS theater practitioner at Croydon University Hospital in south London following what she described as a two-year campaign against her by his superiors and NHS bosses.

Growing up in Nigeria, Ms Onuoha was determined to become a nurse after one of her brothers died of measles due to lack of medical care. Arriving in the UK in 1988 and realizing her ambition, she worked at Croydon University Hospital for 19 years. Every day, she carried the cross without complaining or worrying about the health and safety of her colleagues or patients.

From 2015, however, a succession of supervisors asked Ms. Onuoha to remove her cross, cover it up or face an “escalation”. Each time, Ms. Onuoha politely declined the requests, explaining that her necklace is a symbol of her deeply held Christian faith and that she had worn it to work for many years. The problem escalated in August 2018 when the bosses of Croydon Health Services NHS Trust ordered it to remove the cross saying it was a violation of the Trust’s dress code and uniform policy and therefore a risk to his health and that of patients.

After filing a lawsuit, during the full October hearing, the Trust argued that wearing the cross was a risk of infection. However, Labor Judge Dyal and two lay members, Ms Foster-Norman and Ms Forecast, have now ruled that: “Applying common sense, it is clear to us that the risk of infection posed by a collar of the type The collar that the Claimant was wearing, when worn by a responsible clinician such as the Claimant, who followed the handwashing protocol, was very weak. “

The Tribunal also said that the dismissal of Mary’s grievance was “offensive and intimidating. He failed to properly tackle the complexity of the issues. in fact, many other members of the workforce (including more experienced colleagues who worked equally closely with patients) were doing well. also for them. “

The Tribunal also found that Croydon Health Services NHS Trust implicitly dismissed Ms Onuoha “without reasonable and valid reason” and that the dismissal was unfair and discriminatory.

Further, he ruled that the dress code policy was “applied in an arbitrary manner and in a manner that was not proportionate” and that there was “no compelling explanation” for why the plain rings, ties, kalava bracelets, hijabs and turbans were allowed, but a cross necklace was not (through. 270-271 of the judgment.)

One of the most concerning aspects of Ms Onuoha’s case was how she said she was harassed for wearing the cross necklace by a senior executive while caring for a patient under general anesthesia in the hospital. operating room.

On this point, the Court concluded that the interruption of the surgery while a patient was on the table was “authoritarian.” She literally stopped the surgery to fix the problem. This was to treat the matter as if it were an emergency, believes it was not “, and that this conduct created” an offensive, hostile and intimidating environment “.

The court rejected the Trust’s argument that its objection to the necklace had nothing to do with Ms Onuoha’s Christian beliefs. He accepted the expert testimony of theologian Dr. Martin Parsons, and on this basis, specifically found that “the cross is a symbol of Christianity” and that the wearing of a cross has many centuries of tradition behind it.

The judgment notes that “the wearing of the cross is not and should not be simply a fashion accessory” and “preventing Christians from displaying the cross has been a feature of wider persecution campaigns” in parts of the world. world. The Tribunal also recognized that “there is a biblical teaching imploring Christians to be open about their faith and not to hide it”.

Responding to the result, Ms Onuoha said she was delighted and relieved to have finally obtained justice.

Andrea Williams, Executive Director of the Christian Legal Center, said: “We are delighted that the Tribunal has ruled in Mary’s favor and delivered justice in this case. Shirley Chaplin, who also fought for the freedom to wear a cross necklace 10 years ago, has now also been vindicated.

“From the outset, this case has been about the authoritarian attack by the NHS bureaucracy on the right of a dedicated and industrious nurse to wear a cross – the worldwide, recognized and cherished symbol of the Christian faith. It is very edifying to see the Tribunal recognize this truth.

“It was amazing that an experienced nurse, during a pandemic, was forced to choose between her faith and the profession she loves.

“Every employer will now have to think very carefully before restricting the wearing of crosses in the workplace. You can only do this for specific and compelling health and safety reasons. It is not enough to apply general labels such as “risk of infection” or “health”. and security ‘.

“The judgment makes it clear that Mary’s ordeal resulted in large part from NHS officials’ misunderstanding of the Department of Health’s guidelines on her staff’s uniforms. The result was a campaign of harassment against a dedicated nurse. , experienced and highly professional, who has indeed been kicked out of the NHS. I hope Sajid Javid pays heed. It would be easy to change the guidelines to make it clear that the wearing of crosses by medical personnel should be allowed.

“Mary’s whole life has been devoted to caring for others and to her love for Jesus. It has been a privilege to stand by her side in this long struggle for justice, and we are very happy with the result.”

CONNECTIONS

Full court statement: www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions/mrs-onuoha-v-croydon-health-services-nhs-trust-2300516-slash-2019
Christian concern – https://christianconcern.com/

Keywords: Christian nurse, carrying a cross, court case, Dr Martin Parsons, Christian Legal Center, Mary Onuoha, Cross, Christian Concern

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