A Christian employee of British Airways (BA) has lost her suit against the airline for telling her she cannot wear her crucifix, while allowing Muslim and Sikh employees to don their religious scarves and turbans.

Nadia Ewedia, a check-in worker at London's Heathrow Airport, claims she was told in a letter from the company that her cross breached its uniform rules. "British Airways permits Muslims to wear a headscarf, Sikhs to wear a turban, and other faiths [to wear] religious apparel," said Ewedia, a seven-year employee of the airline. "Only Christians are forbidden to express their faith."

BA said religious items such as Muslims' hijabs (headscarves) and Sikhs' turbans and traditional iron bangles could be worn by workers "as it is not practical for staff to conceal them beneath their uniforms."

Ewedia, a Coptic Christian with an Egyptian father and an English mother, said she refused to remove the crucifix or hide it beneath a BA scarf. She was sent home and told in a letter that she "failed to comply with a reasonable request."

"British Airways uniform standards stipulate that adornments of any kind are not to be worn with the uniform," the letter said. The company put her on unpaid leave pending a disciplinary hearing.

Ewedia said the small cross she wears on a chain around her neck is a symbol of her deeply held Christian beliefs. The airline's chief executive, Willie Walsh, upheld the action against Ewedia.

"Because of the international nature of its work, I believe that BA could justifiably prohibit all its staff from wearing any religious symbol," said Neil Addison, author of Religious Discrimination and Hatred Law. "What it cannot do is impose different, and therefore discriminatory, rules on Muslim and Christian staff ...

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