Disciplinary wasn’t discrimination

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Wasteney v East London NHS Foundation Trust

Ms Wasteney was a Christian worker employed by the NHS Trust. She was alleged to have ‘groomed’ a junior Muslim colleague by, among other things, praying with her and laying her hands on her.

The colleague said that she had begun to feel ill as a result of Ms Wasteney’s abuse of her managerial position. There was an investigation and Ms Wasteney was given a final written warning (reduced to a first written warning on appeal). Professional boundaries had been blurred. But Ms Wasteney then brought a tribunal claim, alleging discrimination and harassment because of/related to her religion or belief.

Her claim hinged on the reason she was disciplined. If it had been for manifesting a religious belief in consensual interactions with a colleague, then that would have been within her rights, and therefore religious discrimination to discipline her for it. But it wasn’t; she had been disciplined for her unwanted and unwelcome behaviour towards a colleague. That was something different altogether, particularly when taking into account Ms Wasteney’s more senior position. Her claim failed at the tribunal and at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

There was also a human rights angle. Had Ms Wasteney’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion been breached? No. That right doesn’t give people ‘a complete and unfettered right to discuss or act on [their] religious beliefs at work irrespective of the views of others or [their] employer’, the tribunal said.

So the way in which religion or belief is manifested is all-important to whether disciplinary action is appropriate or not. It’s something that takes a careful analysis.