Tribunal Concludes Factory Worker Was Fired for Refusing to Remove Crucifix Necklace

Tribunal Concludes Factory Worker Was Fired for Refusing to Remove Crucifix Necklace
Undated photo showing Lady Justice statue on top of the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly referred to as the Old Bailey, in central London. (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Owen Evans

A major British food processor has been ordered to pay a former worker as it was found that he was discriminated against after he refused to obey an order to take off his crucifix necklace multiple times at work, according to a judgment issued on June 7.

The Employment Tribunal website was updated with the judgment on June 14 (pdf).

A Christian factory worker won more than £22,000 after a work tribunal found he was the victim of religious discrimination at 2 Sisters Food Group in Coupar Angus, Scotland.

2 Sisters Food Group is a large UK food company that produces frozen-ready meals, poultry, pies, and more.

Employment Judge Louise Cowen said that it was clear that Jevgenijs Kovalkovs “had lost a job as a result of the discrimination towards him” and that “his religion and the wearing of his necklace were of deep and profound meaning to him.”

Kovalkovs is a Christian and he follows the Russian Orthodox Church; he also said he was bullied.

He believes that a crucifix should be worn close to his chest to signify his commitment to his belief. He wore one every day. Kovalkovs’s crucifix had been sanctified during a baptism ceremony for his godchild and had been a gift from his mother.

Kovalkovs had training on the company’s policy which outlined that “jewellery must not be worn in the production areas on site, with the exception of a single plan band ring.”

But a further exception was made for religious jewellery, subject to a risk assessment.

On the first day of his promotion as a quality inspector in December 2019, his line manager known only by her last name McColl noticed the necklace and told him to take it off, which he did.

In January 2020, Kovalkovs made a complaint about being bullied at work and was brought in for a meeting with another manager where he wore the necklace.

He was asked to remove it and then questioned whether a risk assessment had been carried out, which he said had not, the tribunal was told. Kovalkovs responded that his necklace was a piece of religious jewellery and he did not want to remove it.

He was sent to McColl, and she had concluded that the necklace must be removed due to the fact that the chain contained links and that it may cause the necklace to become tangled or trapped.

When Kovalkovs refused to take the necklace off, he was sent to HR, and because he refused to obey a management instruction, he was sent home immediately.

The Tribunal concluded, based on the evidence, that if this discrimination had not taken place, Kovalkovs would have continued to work for the company.

“It was clear to us that the claimant had lost a job as a result of the discrimination towards him,” wrote Judge Louise Cowen.

The Epoch Times contacted 2 Sisters Food Group for comment about the judgment.