Saturday, November 25, 2006

British Airways Religious Cross Controversy

Silvernecklace A British Airways employee who was required to take off her cross necklace when she went to work has caused a firestorm across England. This is from the Daily Mail:

British Airways backed down over its ban on workers wearing the cross after a hurricane of criticism.

Airline chief Willie Walsh ordered a rethink of the rule that barred check-in worker Nadia Eweida from wearing a tiny cross at work.

The airline had faced four days of angry condemnation from an overwhelming alliance of Cabinet ministers, 100 MPs, 20 Church of England bishops and, finally, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr Rowan Williams called its stance 'deeply offensive' and threatened to sell the Church of England's £6.6million holding of BA shares.

The airline had insisted the cross was covered by rules which say jewellery must be worn out of sight, beneath a uniform. But Mr Walsh said it was clear the policy had to change.

Quite a reaction.  I am not sure the same thing would happen in this country as far as the extent of the public protest. 

However, if this type of ban were instituted by an employer in the United States, it would be fairly difficult for them to show that a religious accommodation of the cross wearing was not possible or that allowing the cross to be worn would cause an undue hardship to their operations. 

Of course, there may be a few business that have strict uniform or other appearance rules that may be able to withstand challenge as long as the dress policy were uniformly-applied and it could be shown that it was important to an employer's operation to have such a rule.


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