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Disciplinary action for Christian proselytising not discriminatory

15 April 2016

Debates over religion often become heated and the line between manifesting a belief and proselytising can be blurred. What is clear is that disciplining an individual simply for manifesting their belief at work would be likely to be unlawful, whereas disciplining someone for improperly promoting their belief, would not.

In Wasteney v East London NHS Trust complaints had been made against Ms Wasteney, a Christian, by a junior colleague, who was a Muslim. The junior colleague complained that Ms Wasteney had effectively been trying to “groom” her by seeking to pray with her, laying on of hands and giving her a book about a Muslim woman’s conversion to Christianity. All this attention was unwanted and Ms Wasteney was subject to disciplinary proceedings which culminated in a written warning. She complained that this amounted to unlawful religious discrimination and harassment. The Tribunal and EAT however both found that the disciplinary process was pursued, not because of her religious belief, but because of her inappropriate manifestation of that belief and there was, therefore, no unlawful discrimination.

An employer should always approach such issues with sensitivity, but where an individual is seeking to promote their beliefs in the workplace in a an inappropriate and unsolicited way then the employer may have to take disciplinary steps. Additionally, if the person complaining of the unwanted attention is in a subordinate position to the individual promoting the beliefs then that will be a further indication that the behaviour is inappropriate.

This article was written by Emma Bartlett.