Orthodox Christian security guard who refused to wear bracelet at festival loses Employment Tribunal discrimination case

Orthodox Christian security guard who refused to wear bracelet at festival loses Employment Tribunal discrimination case

An Employment Tribunal has dismissed a case of discrimination and unfair dismissal brought by a former security company employee who alleged she was discriminated against based on her Orthodox Christian beliefs not allowing her to wear a bracelet.

Mariana Nijiloveanu, a Romanian national, was asked to wear the bracelet in order to work at a festival site as part of her duties with Vigilant Security (Scotland) Ltd. She sought to establish claims of direct and indirect discrimination based on religion alongside wrongful dismissal and direct race and sex discrimination.

The case was heard by Employment Judge P O’Donnell, along with Tribunal Members R Taggart and J Ward. The claimant appeared in person, with the respondent represented by T Muirhead, solicitor.

Sign of the Devil

The claimant commenced employment with the respondent in January 2022. From the 9th to the 13th of June, she was assigned shifts at the Eden Festival, being held outside Dumfries. Upon arriving at the site, she was informed that she would be required to wear a bracelet to show that she was entitled to be on the festival site. However, as part of her Orthodox Christian beliefs, the claimant was taught that wearing a bracelet was a sign of the Devil.

On 11 June, the claimant entered the festival site to begin her shift and was asked to show her bracelet by an employee of the main security contractor for the site. She stated that it was in her vest pocket, but then realised she was wearing a different vest. Following an altercation with the security officer, the claimant approached one of her supervisors at the site to complain about the bracelet. She did not explain her religious objection to him. After being told it was a requirement to wear the bracelet, she returned home without completing her shift.

The claimant later attended the respondent’s premises and stated to a supervisor, CM, that she was “leaving”, before leaving the building without her badge and uniform. CM wrote to her on 17 June asking her to confirm whether she was resigning. The claimant did not reply to that letter and was not offered any further shifts with the respondent.

It was the claimant’s submission that she had informed the respondent of her religion before starting work, and an alternative to wearing the bracelet ought to have been found for her. For the respondent it was submitted that the bracelet requirement was imposed by the event organiser and not them, and even if there was indirect discrimination the requirement was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Cart before the horse

In its decision, the Tribunal observed: “The primary difficulty for the claimant in all of the claims relating to religion/belief is that the matter giving rise to the claims was not an act or decision of the respondent. It was either the event organiser or main security contractor who insisted on everyone attending the site (whether the public or staff) required to wear a bracelet to show which areas of the site they were entitled to enter.”

It continued: “The claimant has, unfortunately, fallen into a common error in direct discrimination claims of putting the cart before the horse. It may well be the case that the claimant’s religion/belief is why she did not want to wear the bracelet but a claim of direct discrimination requires the claimant to show that the act of discrimination was done because she held the belief in question. In this case, the clear evidence (which the claimant did not dispute) was that the reason for the need to wear the bracelet was for security purposes and nothing connected to the claimant’s belief.”

Turning to whether there was indirect discrimination, the Tribunal said: “In the Tribunal’s view, it was entirely the responsibility of the claimant to inform the respondent and not the other way round. Whilst she would not have known of the need to disclose her issue with wearing the bracelet in advance of the festival job, she would have been aware of it on the first day and could have raised it then. The belief in question is not one which the Tribunal considers the claimant could have reasonably assumed was commonly known; none of the respondent’s witnesses were aware of it and the Tribunal panel had never heard of this particular belief.”

On wrongful dismissal, it concluded: “To the extent that the claimant relies on the lack of any shifts being offered to her after June 2022, this is entirely consistent with the terms of her contract. The contract clearly states that there is no guarantee of any work being offered and so it cannot be inferred that the claimant has been dismissed solely from a lack of shifts being offered to her. In these circumstances, the Tribunal does not consider that the claimant has been dismissed and so the obligation to give notice has not been triggered.”

The claim was accordingly dismissed.

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