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Hindu sacked over nose stud wins back job

Hindu sacked over nose stud wins back job

Author: Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: October 5, 2007
URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/05/nhindu105.xml

A Hindu woman sacked from her job at Heathrow last month for wearing a nose stud as a religious symbol has been reinstated.

Amrit Lalji, 40, had worked in the VIP lounge of Terminal One for more than a year before she was fired for wearing the tiny stud.

But yesterday her union said that she would resume work at the airport on Sunday.

The speed with which she has won back her job contrasts with the four-month suspension suffered by another Heathrow worker, Nadia Eweida, for wearing a Christian cross.

Mrs Lalji's employers, Eurest, said yesterday her sacking had been a mistake based on a misinterpretation of its own regulations.

She was instructed by a British Airways manager in the summer to remove the nose pin, even though she had told her employers that it had religious significance and signified her married status.

When she refused to comply she was suspended and subsequently sacked.

A spokesman for Eurest said at the time that Mrs Lalji had been made aware of company policy on jewellery that prohibits "flesh piercings" which can be hazardous to customers.

"Mrs Lalji's decision not to return to work without the nose stud contravenes company rules and regulations and she was dismissed," he said.

But Hindu leaders defended her right to wear the stud as a significant part of her faith.

Although it is not compulsory, Hindu women often have their noses pierced and fitted with a stud as part of the Shringar ritual when they marry. The Hindu Council UK said: "It is as integral a part of the Hindu wedding ceremony as the giving of a wedding ring is within a Christian marriage.

"These marks are not just the outward symbol of marriage - traditionally they are believed to help ensure the match is harmonious.

"If the company concerned allows wedding bands, we don't see why she can't wear a tiny nose stud."

Commenting on her reinstatement, a spokesman for Eurest said that the company had discovered that "the rules relating to facial piercings are mandatory only in catering operations".

"Though this is not clear in the handbook, which is given to all employees, it is specific in the text of the Company's HR Directory, which is the primary source policy document," he said.

"Since Mrs Lalji is not engaged in catering, her dismissal resulted from a misunderstanding of the rules and is therefore unjustified."

Tahir Bhatti, speaking for the union, said: "GMB is pleased to have been able to assist Mrs Lalji in this matter and welcomes Eurest's decision that she is reinstated in her position immediate and without detriment."

Her case follows a row over Nadia Eweida, who was suspended by British Airways in September last year for wearing a silver cross on a necklace that managers said breached its dress code.

The airline backed down four months later after pressure from religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.


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