You are here

Christian check-in worker loses costs-capping appeal

19 October 2009

A British Airways check-in worker who was banned from wearing a crucifix has failed in the latest round of her discrimination claim seeking to cap the costs her employer could recover if she lost her case.

Considering the case on appeal in May, Lord Justice Sedley found that the draft bill of costs put forward by BA, which is represented by Baker and McKenzie, exceeded by over 25 per cent the current guidelines on costs assessment and that the projected hours of work seemed “on the generous side”.

Making a £25,000 costs-capping order, he ruled that it would be unreasonable to expect an unsuccessful appellant to pay the amounts which the respondent incurred for a “Rolls Royce service”.

But discharging the order last week Lord Justice Lloyd said in Eweida v British Airways [2009] EWCA Civ 1025 there was “no particular element in the respondent’s draft bill of costs which is unreasonable or disproportionate in itself”.

Nadia Eweida refused to comply with the airline’s policy which, at the time, did not allow employees to wear religious symbols such as a cross in a manner that was visible.

She was asked to conceal her cross but refused and lodged a claim for religious discrimination against her employer.

Both the employment tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected her case, but Lord Justice Sedley granted her leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Sedley LJ refused her application for a protective costs order; instead he capped BA’s recoverable costs at £25,000.

Dismissing a further application for a PCO, Lord Justice Lloyd said such orders were only available in public law cases.

“The particular issue in the present appeal may not be usual, but the nature of the claim is commonplace,” Lloyd LJ said. “The issue may be of general importance, but the claim is a private claim, for the benefit of the employee.”

The judge added that while there may be flexibility in the application of the rule, the appellant’s private interest was “too significant” to fall within the possible exceptions.

Lloyd LJ said Sedley LJ’s points about a Rolls Royce service were “no doubt entirely apposite” but ruled that “the sanction, and the protection for the paying party, lies in the power of the costs judge to assess the costs at a reasonable level and to disallow excessive expenditure”.

Nadia Eweida returned to work after four months of absence on 3 February 2007, just days after BA changed its uniform policy to allow the wearing of religious symbols.

She claimed that she was directly and indirectly discriminated on religious grounds and is seeking just under £79,000 in compensation.

The employment tribunal, and later the Employment Appeal Tribunal, rejected her claim but the case has been allowed to proceed to the Court of Appeal because it raises issues of general public importance.

Categorised in:

Discrimination Children Landlord & Tenant Vulnerable Clients