InsightsClient Story - Employment & HR - POSTED: February 7 2017
Time off work to attend religious festivals – Discrimination or not?
The case in point is Gareddu v London Underground Ltd.
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Mr Gareddu, a Sardinian Roman Catholic, asked his employer is he could take five consecutive weeks of annual leave during August each year so that he may return to Sardinia to participate in religious festivals with his family. London Underground allowed him to do so for five years until recent years when they made clear it would not be possible to do so due to operational needs.
Mr Gareddu decided to apply again for his usual request in November 2014 for August 2015 and was refused on the basis stated above. Instead, he was limited to taking three consecutive weeks. Mr Gareddu brought a claim of indirect religion or belief discrimination under section 19 Equality Act 2010.
The tribunal dismissed the claim, finding that Mr Gareddu’s asserted religious belief was not made in good faith. The last time he had in fact attended religious festivals was 2013, due to injury in the two subsequent years, and in that year he had only attended nine out of the 17 festivals. Therefore it was found that his assertion requiring his attendance of all the festivals over a five-week period was not made in good faith.
On appeal, the case was again dismissed. The Honourable Mrs Justice Simler stated in summary that:
“Nobody, in this case, disputed that attendance at festivals in Sardinia was a manifestation of belief both for this Claimant and for others, and this Tribunal both accepted that and did not engage in any evaluation of the validity of such a belief or manifestation and did not look to family motivations in order to reach an opposite conclusion.”
It was found that the case was not about whether participation in the festivals was typical of Sardinian Catholics’ practice; rather that Mr Gareddu’s particular description of his religious belief was not genuine. The tribunal had been correct in first instance given that Mr Gareddu did not attend the exact same festivals each year. “
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