Christian nurse Mary Onuoha was proven by the United Kingdom's Employment Tribunal on Wednesday to have experienced harassment and discrimination from the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust who fired her for wearing a necklace with a cross at work.
The Christian Concern, whose legal arm Christian Legal Centre supported Onuoha, announced that the tribunal ruled that the hospital "breached her human rights and created a 'humiliating, hostile and threatening environment' for her."
"The outcome of the case develops a wider legal principle that employers cannot discriminate against employees for reasonable manifestations of faith in the workplace," the Christian Concern stressed.
Christianity Daily reported in October that Onuoha sued her employer for treating her "like a criminal" simply because she wore a cross necklace to work. The lawsuit included her bosses who intimidated her and forced her out of her job.
Onuoha raised that she has been wearing the cross everywhere she went for the last four decades, which included the Croydon University Hospital that she has been a part of for 18 years.
"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 in a video statement.
She revealed that the discrimination started six years ago when threats of disciplinary action were made against her for wearing the cross on allegations from her bosses that it is a health and safety risk. This was despite other staff were not treated with the same manner as her. She was eventually removed from work in June 2020, leading her to file the lawsuit.
"Wearing of the cross is not and should not be simply as a fashion accessory (and) stopping Christians from displaying the cross has been a feature of wider persecution campaigns," the Tribunal said.
In the 98-paged ruling, the Employment Tribunal identified fourteen instances of harassment done by the Trust against Onuoha in its judgement, stressing that these "succeed as complaints of harassment related to religion, alternatively as complaints of direct discrimination."
These instances included a boss demanding, first of all, Onuoha to "remove her cross and threatened to 'escalate it' if the Claimant did not comply." Another instance involved Onuoha's "re-deployment...to various non-clinical roles since 28 November and continued redeployment from August 2019."
In addition, the Tribunal judged that the complaints Onuoha made against the Trust are "complaints of direct discrimination." The Tribunal also ruled the veteran nurse's removal from work as unjust.
"The Claimant was constructively dismissed and the dismissal was unfair. The claims otherwise fail and are dismissed," the Tribunal concluded.
Christian Legal Centre Chief Executive Officer Andrea Williams expressed delight and relief that Onuoha finally received the justice she so deserve.
"We are delighted that the Tribunal have ruled in Mary's favor and delivered justice in this case. Shirley Chaplin, who also fought for the freedom to wear a cross necklace 10 years ago has also now been vindicated," Williams 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, recognized and cherished symbol of the Christian faith. It is very uplifting to see the Tribunal acknowledge this truth. It was astonishing that an experienced nurse, during a pandemic, was forced to choose between her faith and the profession she loves," she added.