‘Victory for common sense’ Christian nurse sacked for wearing crucifix unfairly dismissed

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An employment tribunal ruled Mary Onuoha, a theatre practitioner at Croydon University Hospital, Surrey, an employment tribunal rules. Ms Onuoha wore a necklace with a small cross pendant as a symbol of her religious belief.

However, the Trust’s uniform policy prohibited the wearing of necklaces in clinical areas on the grounds that it could be a health and safety risk.

Ms Onuoha was told to remove her necklace in 2014, around 13 years after she started working at the hospital.

Due to her religious beliefs, she refused and refused again when the issue was raised in 2015 and 2016, the Guardian reported.

After she continued to refuse, she was suspended from clinical duties and demoted to working as a receptionist, which she said left her feeling humiliated.

In 2020, Ms Onuoha resigned and claimed constructive and unfair dismissal.

She argued the trust had breached her right to religion under article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The nurse argued her treatment was religious discrimination, harassment and victimisation under the 2010 Equality Act.

Ms Onuoha said: “My cross has been with me for 40 years.

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“It is part of me, and my faith, and it has never caused anyone any harm.

“At this hospital there are members of staff who go to a mosque four times a day and no one says anything to them.

“Hindus wear red bracelets on their wrists and female Muslims wear hijabs in theatre.

“Yet my small cross around my neck was deemed so dangerous that I was no longer allowed to do my job.

“I am a strong woman but I have been treated like a criminal.”

According to the tribunal’s ruling on Wednesday, the trust allowed employees to wear other items of religious apparel.

It ruled: “There was no proper explanation as to why those items were permitted but a cross-necklace was not.”

The result has been widely praised with the Daily Mail’s Andrew Pierce saying it was a “victory for common sense”.

He tweeted: “A Christian nurse hounded out of her job for wearing a crucifix was unfairly dismissed says tribunal.

“A victory for common sense.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which supported Onuoha’s case, said: “From the beginning this case has been about the high-handed attack from the NHS bureaucracy on the right of a devoted and industrious nurse to wear a cross – the worldwide, recognised and cherished symbol of the Christian faith.

“Any employer will now have to think very carefully before restricting wearing of crosses in the workplace.”

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