Jackson v CNV Ltd ET/2600377/11
Date added: 1 March 2012
religion or belief discrimination | jewellery
In this case, an employee claimed that she had suffered discrimination on the ground of religion or belief when she was asked to remove from view a necklace that had religious connotations.
Employers can lawfully prohibit jewellery at the workplace where they have a legitimate and justifiable reason for doing so, for example for health and safety reasons.
However, it is sensible for employers to have a flexible approach to issues involving dress codes and religious requirements, as this can help foster good workplace relations and avoid disputes.
Ms Jackson was employed as a weekend cook by CNV Ltd, which operates three care homes. She was based at a home in Bromley. The tribunal later found that she “did not take kindly” to being given instructions, and took even less kindly to criticism. She was eventually dismissed for misconduct, and brought several tribunal claims, including discrimination on the ground of religion or belief.
The tribunal found that, at some point in September or October 2010, Ms Jackson and her manager, Mrs Lee, had been sitting in an office discussing menus. Mrs Lee had noticed that Ms Jackson was wearing a necklace. Ms Jackson’s evidence was that the following exchange had taken place:
Mrs Lee: “What’s that?”
Ms Jackson: “It is my religion. Don’t go there. It was given to me by my mother before she died. ”
Mrs Lee: “What’s your religion?”
Ms Jackson: “Catholic. ”
Mrs Lee: “Tuck it in so it can’t be seen. ”
Ms Jackson said that she had not taken off the necklace, and at no point in her evidence did she suggest that she had been asked or instructed to remove it. However, during her closing submissions, she asserted that Mrs Lee had asked her to take off the necklace.
The tribunal found Ms Jackson to be a “most unsatisfactory witness”. In contrast, the company’s witnesses gave “clear, concise and straightforward” evidence. As a result, where there was a conflict of evidence, the tribunal preferred the evidence given by the company’s witnesses.
The tribunal noted that it was apparent from Ms Jackson’s demeanour that she took “great exception” to Mrs Lee’s referring to her treasured necklace as “that”. The tribunal found that, at the time of the incident, Ms Jackson and Mrs Lee had been sitting “some feet” from each other, on opposite sides of the desk. The tribunal thought it “unlikely in the extreme” that any person viewing the necklace at that distance would have been aware that it had any religious connotations, given that it was “barely larger than a 2p coin”.
The tribunal found that it was common for catering establishments, for health and safety reasons, to prohibit employees from wearing jewellery, although it appears that the company permitted employees to wear a wedding band and ear studs. Taking Ms Jackson’s evidence “at its highest”, the tribunal could see no act or omission by Mrs Lee during the incident that could be considered to be a detriment capable of being discrimination on the ground of religion.
The tribunal held that the appropriate hypothetical comparator would have the same characteristics as Ms Jackson, but would be wearing a necklace that did not have any religious connotations. The tribunal was confident that the company would have treated this comparator in precisely the same way as it had treated Ms Jackson, or even in less considerate a manner. The tribunal considered it highly likely that the company would not have permitted the comparator to continue to wear a necklace that had no religious connotations.
The tribunal dismissed Ms Jackson’s claim of religion or belief discrimination, along with all of her other claims.