15 April 2016: Religious Views and the Workplace:
In Wasteney v East London NHS Foundation Trust, a junior employee who happened to be Muslim, complained that her manager was ‘grooming’ her by praying with her in one-to-one’s, laying hands on her, sending her religious DVD’s and inviting her to Christian services and events.
The Trust brought disciplinary action for serious misconduct against Ms Wasteney and imposed a final written warning, saying that her conduct amounted to the blurring of professional boundaries and subjecting a junior colleague to improper pressure and unwanted conduct. Ms Wasteney appealed and the sanction was downgraded. Ms Wasteney claimed direct discrimination and harassment on the ground of religion or belief in the Employment Tribunal.
The Tribunal rejected her claims: The reason for her treatment was the blurring of professional boundaries and placing improper pressure on a junior colleague. The Trust would have taken a similar approach even if Ms Wasteney had been pressing a non-religious point of view. The disciplinary sanction was not ‘oppressive’ and did not amount to harassment.
The EAT rejected her argument that the Tribunal failed to take sufficient account of her right under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights to manifest her religious belief. Ms Wasteney was not ‘sharing her faith with a consenting colleague’.
In most workplaces, employees respect each other’s religious beliefs and this kind of situation is unusual. However when they do arise, they need to be addressed with sensitivity and care.