A Christian nurse from South London has filed a lawsuit against her employer for discriminating her simply because she wore a cross when at work.
CBN News reported that 61-year-old Christian nurse Mary Onuoha felt she was "treated like a criminal" for wearing a necklace with a cross on it when she went to work at the Croydon University Hospital, which she was a part of for 18 years. Onuoha sued her bosses for allegedly intimidating her and forcing her out of her job.
"This has always been an attack on my faith. My cross has been with me for 40 years. It is part of me, and my faith, and it has never caused anyone any harm. All I have ever wanted is to be a nurse and to be true to my faith. I am a strong woman, but I have been treated like a criminal. I love my job, but I am not prepared to compromise my faith for it, and neither should other Christian NHS staff in this country," Onuoha said.
According to Onuoha, her superiors made her hide the small gold cross she wore or had it removed whenever they saw it. She said the cross represents her deep faith as a Christian and have worn it for 40 years. The lawsuit was filed by Christian Legal Center in behalf of Onuoha against the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust on the basis of victimization, harassment, constructive unfair dismissal, and direct and indirect discrimination.
Onuoha raised that she didn't encounter any problems in wearing the cross until six years ago when she was threatened with disciplinary action by her hospital superiors should she not take it off. The managers explained that the cross was a risk to health and safety and raised that it "must not be visible." Onuoha pointed out that she was the only one who experienced such a treatment in the hospital since other hospital members were allowed to wear their jewelry, hijabs, turbans, and saris. None of the managers asked the other staff to remove what they wore at work except her.
Onuoha then recalled that on August 2018 her supervisors reiterated their order to have her remove the cross and cited it as a violation of the hospital's Trust's Dress Code and Uniform Policy. The hospital managers repeated that it is a health risk to her and their patients.
However, Onuoha rebutted that it was the management team of the hospital that actually violated the said policy. She cited that the dress code in the said policy underscored the need for "sensitivity" when it comes to staff members' "religious" requirements in dressing. Onouha explained that she was required by management to wear lanyards that had no anti-strangle clasps. The policy said that wearing items on the neck was a "risk of injury of infection," pertaining to her necklace with a cross on it.
"The Trust welcomes the variety of appearances brought by individual styles, choices and religious requirements regarding dress; this will be treated sensitively and will be agreed on an individual basis with the Manager and Trust and must conform to health, safety and security regulations, infection prevention and control and moving and handling guidelines. The wearing of saris, turbans, kirpan, skullcaps, hijabs, kippahs and clerical collars arising from particular cultural/religious norms are seen as part of welcoming diversity," the hospital's dress code read.
Since Onuoha refused to obey their orders, she was demoted as a receptionist after being moved in various administrative roles with the order that she is to keep silent regarding the actual reason for her change in designation and roles. Onuoha claimed that this humiliated her and took an emotional toll on her and eventually led her to resign in August 2020.
The Daily Mail said the Croydon Employment Tribunal has began hearing Onuoha's claims against the Croydon University Hospital on Tuesday with the presentation of evidence on the case. Christian Legal Centre lawyers argued that the hospital's policy has violated her religious freedom as stated in the European Convention of Human Rights and Equality Act Article 9.