Ingrid Simler QC wins Eweida v British Airways in the Court of Appeal

Ingrid Simler QC (instructed by Baker & McKenzie) has successfully defended an appeal in an important religious discrimination case on behalf of British Airways.

On 12 February 2010 the Court of Appeal ruled that British Airways did not indirectly discriminate against the Appellant, Mrs Eweida, on the grounds of her religion, by adopting a staff dress code which forbade the wearing of a visible neck adornment and so prevented Mrs Eweida from wearing a small, visible cross with her uniform.

The Court of Appeal accepted Ms Simler’s submissions that one individual person cannot be the subject of indirect discrimination and that some identifiable section of a workforce, quite possibly a small one, must be shown to suffer a particular disadvantage which the Claimant shares. The Court noted that, if a solitary employee could be indirectly discriminated against, employers would be placed under an impossible burden for what may be parochial or even facetious beliefs in society at large.

By a majority, the Court further held that British Airways would have succeeded in its cross-appeal on justification in any event. On the footing on which the claim was now being advanced, namely disadvantage to a single individual arising out of her wish to manifest her faith in a particular way, the employment tribunal's findings of fact had shown that British Airways’ staff dress code was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

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