A Christian factory worker in Scotland who was fired after he told his line manager that he wouldn’t take off his crucifix necklace as it had a “deep and profound meaning” for him, has won more than $26,000 in a religious discrimination suit.
Jevgenijs Kovalkovs, a quality inspector, was fired by his employer, 2 Sisters Food Group Limited in Coupar Angus, for wearing a silver necklace that had been sanctified during a baptism ceremony for his godchild, according to The Telegraph.
Kovalkovs, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, “had lost a job as a result of the discrimination toward him,” Employment Judge Louise Cowen at the tribunal in Dundee was quoted as saying. “His religion and the wearing of his necklace were of deep and profound meaning to him.”
The Christian man joined the chicken wholesalers in November 2019 and was promoted to the role of quality inspector, The U.K. Times reported, adding that he wore a white coat over his clothes at work while his colleagues wore lanyards, identity passes and keys around their necks.
His line manager ordered him to remove the cross, a gift from his mother, saying it was deemed a hazard at the workplace. Kovalkovs was later seen wearing it again at the factory and refused to take it off.
As per the company’s foreign body control policy, staff were not allowed to wear jewelry, except a single plain band ring, in the production areas on site. And religious jewelry required a risk assessment before being allowed.
The line manager did not carry out a risk assessment, thinking that the issue had been dealt with, the panel was told. Kovalkovs was then fired for not obeying an instruction. His employment ended “immediately” as he was in his probationary period.
The panel found that his sacking was based “entirely” on the non-declaration of the necklace during the induction course he went through at the time of joining.
In a similar case in 2013, Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee, won a landmark legal battle at the European Court of Human Rights to wear a cross at work. The airlines had asked her not to wear her white gold cross “visibly.”
The court ruled it was a violation of her rights as per article nine of the European Convention on Human Rights, The Telegraph reported at the time.