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Tribunal rules against crucifix-wearing nurse who claimed discrimination on religious grounds

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A Christian nurse, who was moved to a desk job by her employers because she refused to remove a crucifix, has lost her discrimination case.

Shirley Chaplin, who worked at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospitals NHS Trust, claimed her employer was preventing her from expressing her religious beliefs, but the tribunal ruled her employer had behaved in a reasonable manner.

Audrey Williams, head of discrimination at Eversheds, said: "Ever since religious discrimination laws were introduced more than six years ago, employers have been grappling with the difficult question of how far they must go to accommodate employees whose religious beliefs bring them into conflict with workplace policies. This is the latest in a series of cases brought by employees who feel their employer has got the balance wrong. But, as this case shows, proving unlawful discrimination is no simple matter. And unlike in some other countries, for example the US, there is no general obligation on employers to accommodate an individual's religious beliefs.

"Despite the outcome of this particular claim, there will be cases in which tribunals are prepared to accept that particular dress requirements are discriminatory. This is more likely to be the case where a significant number of a religion's followers consider dressing in a particular way or displaying certain symbols to be either a mandatory requirement of their faith or of exceptional importance. In those cases an employer should expect to have to justify its policy and demonstrate that the need to insist on strict compliance outweighs any adverse impact on people of a particular faith."