A British Airways employee’s landmark legal battle to wear a cross at work triggered a “traumatic and harrowing” campaign of victimisation and harassment against her, a tribunal heard.
Nadia Eweida won a claim of religious discrimination – contested by government lawyers – in the European Court of Human Rights in 2013 after the airline sent her home for wearing a silver crucifix around her neck.
She had been locked in the highly publicised legal dispute since falling foul of a new employee clothing policy in 2006 – a case that ignited debate, but was rejected by the British courts.
Ms Eweida, who still works in customer service for BA, has launched a fresh case against the airline, alleging the publicity singled her out for mistreatment when she returned to her role in 2007.
In 18 incidents dating back to 2012, she accused the airline of victimisation, harassment and punishing her for whistleblowing.
At a hearing at the Employment Tribunal in Watford on Friday, Ms Eweida said the long-running disputes with BA since 2006 had been “traumatic and harrowing”, and she accused the airline of failing its duty of care.
She added: “My proceedings at the court in Strasbourg triggered resentment at BA and caused a continuing campaign against me.
“This whole process from 2006 to date has been traumatic and harrowing.”
Giving evidence, Ms Eweida said on one occasion she had been denied a break in March 2017 after experiencing strain on her eyes in the wake of an operation for glaucoma.
She was instead told to cover a flight gate – and given an informal warning by management when she refused to do so.
She said: “I was browbeaten and forced to work. At a meeting I was told ‘this is not important and not an emergency’.”
Ms Eweida told the court she was made to feel “worse than nothing” by her employer and suffered a range of health problems from the campaign against her.
She added: “I suffered nose bleeds, I was made to feel less than nothing, a nobody, and broken and worthless.”
On another occasion, the tribunal heard, she had been bombarded with 16 automated calls every few minutes while trying to help passengers.
When asked why she had not brought her new claims earlier, she said she was not a “vexatious individual” and loved her job.
Ms Eweida said she had raised internal grievances and only went to the tribunal when she felt she had no other option.
She added: “I wanted to preserve a good working relationship and avoid the trauma of litigation, which I had already had to endure.
“I hoped that by keeping things internal the incidents would stop. It was only when they would not that I felt I had no choice but to take action.”
But Katharine Newton, representing BA, said some of the allegations dating back to 2012 were “stale” and urged Judge Isabel Manley to throw out 14 of them as being too old.
She added: “No judgment striking out those other matters will deprive the claimant having her remaining claims heard.”
Judge Manley said she would release her judgment by December.
The tribunal is due to be heard in October next year.