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The employers in this case were held to have been justified in disciplining an employee for attempting to impose her religious beliefs on a subordinate employee who was not a willing recipient of those attempts.
EN, a Muslim, complained to her employers that W, a senior manager, was making her feel ill by inviting her to church events, telling her to ‘invite Jesus to come into her spirit’, suggesting that EN’s illness could only be cured by Jesus, praying with her and laying hands on her. W’s employers, an NHS Trust, had previously warned W to respect the boundaries between her spiritual life and her professional life. The Trust started disciplinary proceedings against W. She received a final warning, which was reduced to a first written warning on appeal. W complained to a tribunal that she had been discriminated against because of her religious beliefs. She also relied on Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which, she claimed, protected her right to ‘proselytise’.
The employment tribunal concluded that W was given the warning because she had subjected a subordinate to unwanted and unwelcome conduct which went substantially beyond ‘religious discussion’ and in doing so had failed to have regard to her own influential position.
The EAT accepted that Article 9 provided a right for employees to ‘proselytise’ (ie to try to change the religion of another) and that treating an employee less favourably because of a manifestation of their religious beliefs amounts to religious discrimination; but treating someone less favourably because they have manifested their religion in an inappropriate manner was not unlawful religious discrimination. Here, the tribunal had found that the way W had manifested her religion was unwanted and inappropriate; she had been disciplined because of that inappropriate manner and not because of her religious beliefs. W’s complaint of discrimination because of religious belief therefore failed.
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