Worker unfairly dismissed for not removing religious neck chainAugust 1st 2022
A Christian worker has won his claim of unfair dismissal after he refused to take off his neck chain.
Joanne Stronach Director and Head of Employment & HR reports on this recent case.
Mr Kovalkovs worked at the 2 Sisters Food Group chicken processing firm from November 2019.
He wore a silver crucifix on a neck chain to signify his belief in the Russian Orthodox Church.
This was an issue for 2 Sisters Food, which had a ‘foreign body control policy’ as part of its food safety processes.
In December 2019, Kovalkovs obliged when his line manager asked him to take off the chain, although he believed it should be permitted as a religious piece of jewellery.
He then complained that he was being bullied and during a meeting he was again asked to remove the chain. He said his line manager was aware of the issue, but no risk assessment form had been completed.
Kovalkovs’ line manager carried out the risk assessment, embarrassed that the matter had been raised in front of her superior.
She concluded that because the chain consisted of links, there was a risk of contamination.
Again, Kovalkovs refused to remove the chain when asked to do so and was sent to HR who told him that he was refusing to obey a management instruction, and so his probationary period and thus his employment would be ended immediately.
Kovalkovs then made a claim of direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled in his favour, noting that 2 Sisters Food’s ‘foreign body control policy’ could not be considered proportionate or necessary.
The risk assessment had not been appropriately carried out and solutions such as PPE and keeping the chain tucked under clothing were not even considered.
Kovalkovs was awarded £22,074.