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A Christian factory worker in Scotland was awarded more than $26,000 last week after an employment tribunal found a company policy and its application were “indirectly discriminatory.”
Jevgenijs Kovalkovs, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, “had lost a job as a result of the discrimination toward him,” Employment Judge Louise Cowen said at the tribunal in Dundee, according to The Telegraph. “His religion and the wearing of his necklace were of deep and profound meaning to him.”
Kovalkovs was working as a quality inspector at 2 Sisters Food Group Limited in Coupar Angus, Scotland, when his supervisor ordered him to take off the necklace, which was a gift from his mother.
The tribunal heard that Kovalkovs was told by his line manager that his necklace, which had 30 small links and was sanctified during his godchild’s baptism, posed a “hazard” at the chicken wholesalers.
Close up of a necklace with a cross on it (Jose Luis Pelaez Inc via Getty Images)
According to the company’s foreign body control policy, jewelry is not allowed to be worn “in the production areas on site, with the exception of a single plan band ring.”
Religious jewelry is possibly allowed following a “risk assessment,” but such an assessment was never carried out by Kovalkovs’ supervisor, the panel was further told.
Close-up of a crucifix hanging in a car (Adriano Oliveira / EyeEm via Getty Images)
After Kovalkovs kept wearing the necklace, he was fired for not obeying an instruction. Because he was in his probationary period, his employment ended “immediately.”
Kovalkos’ firing was based “entirely” on the non-declaration of the necklace during the induction course he went through at the time of joining, the panel found.
The panel awarded Kovalkos £22,074.68, which is equivalent to more than $26,000.
Cross necklace hanging in front of a window (do seongyun via Getty Images)
In a similar case, the Employment Tribunal in the U.K. ruled January in favor of Mary Onuoha, a Christian nurse who took legal action against Croydon Health Services NHS Trust in London after resigning in June 2020. Onuoha claimed she was targeted for years for wearing a small cross necklace that she was told posed “a health and safety risk.”