While discussing religious matters on a consensual basis is permissible, employees need to be aware that the repeated and/or forceful imposition of religious views may amount to harassment, as the following case illustrates.
C was a born-again Christian working as a senior manager in the NHS. X, a junior Muslim colleague, complained that C had attempted to recruit her to Christianity by praying over her, laying hands on her, giving her a book about conversion to Christianity, and inviting her to an evangelical church. X complained that C’s behavior had ruined her first year of practice.
The employer conducted a disciplinary investigation. C said the behavior was consensual. However the employer decided that C had put pressure on X and C was given a final written warning, reduced on appeal to a first written warning.
C brought a claim of direct and indirect discrimination and harassment on the grounds of religious belief. She also alleged that the employer had breached her right under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights to manifest her religious beliefs.
The EAT dismissed her appeal. It was a fundamental premise of the appeal that the manifestation of the belief relied on by C was her sharing her faith with a consenting colleague. However, X had not consented to C’s actions. C had blurred professional boundaries and put pressure on X.
(See Wasteney v East London NHS Foundation Trust, EAT).
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