Oct 23 2013
A Christian woman is asking the Court of Appeal to rule that she has the right not to work on Sundays.
Children's care worker Celestina Mba, from London, said she told her employer before accepting the job that it was an issue of faith. She was unable to work Sundays because she wanted to pray.
She claims she was later told she would have to work full weekend shifts before resigning over the row.
She is asking three appeal judges to overturn an employment appeal tribunal decision dismissing her claim for constructive dismissal against the London Borough of Merton.
Her claim failed partly on the grounds that observing the Sabbath was not a "core component" of the Christian faith, because some believers were prepared to work on a Sunday.
She told ITV's Daybreak: "When I applied for the job I stated I was unable to work Sundays. I could work any shift on any day apart from on Sunday and they told me they would work around it.
"But they reneged on what they said.
"I think it's because of my faith. They feel that me asserting my faith in the workplace is an issue for them."
Ms Mba, 58, a Baptist Christian and mother-of-three, will argue that an employer has a duty to "reasonably accommodate" the beliefs of a Christian employee.
She stresses that she is not attempting to force her beliefs on anyone else.
If she wins, her groundbreaking action could establish new religious rights allowing Christian workers to observe the Sabbath as a day of rest.
Ms Mba is expected to use a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgment issued in January over a case brought by four Christians on religious rights in the workplace.
The court ruled that Coptic Christian Nadia Eweida, a British Airways worker who was sent home from work for displaying a small silver crucifix during her job as a check-in attendant at Heathrow Airport, had been discriminated against under freedom of religion laws.
But it rejected similar claims brought by the three other Christians.
Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, which is backing Ms Mba, said: "We are finding that when it comes to Christians, they are not accommodated in the way that other faiths are accommodated.
"We are seeing secular courts ruling on core components of Christian practice. The courts have acted to protect the kara bracelet (worn by Sikhs), Afro cornrow haircuts, the wearing of the hijab and a Muslim's right to fast, but have refused to grant the protection to the cross or the Christian Sunday."
Shop workers are already entitled to refuse to work on Sundays, but employees in other areas can be required to do so if their employer shows there is "a legitimate business need".