Christian launches Sunday working legal claim

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Christian launches Sunday working legal claim

Post by Guest on Sun Feb 19, 2012 1:16 pm

A devout Christian is to launch legal action claiming she was forced from her job caring for disabled children because she refused to work on Sundays.


Celestina Mba, formerly a carer for disabled children in Merton, who is suing her employer for giving her a disciplinary after she refused to work on Sundays Photo: CLARA MOLDEN

Celestina Mba claims that the council she worked for pressured her to work on Sundays and threatened her with disciplinary measures - even though other workers were willing to take the shifts.

The case, to begin at an industrial tribunal tomorrow, comes amid growing concern among Christians at the “marginalisation” of religion in public life, and days after the Queen spoke up for the value of faith and its vital place in British society, while Baroness Warsi, the Conservative party chairman, said a “liberal elite” was attempting to downgrade the importance of religion in public life.

It involves a public sector employer at a time when Christian groups have expressed fears that state bodies - including the judiciary - are failing to treat them fairly. It will also will highlight long-running concern over the status of Sunday as a day of rest, which the Church has warned is being downgraded.

Miss Mba, worships every Sunday at her Baptist church, where she is also part of the ministry team offering pastoral care and support to the congregation.

The 57 year-old provided respite care for children with severe learning difficulties at the Brightwell children’s home in Morden, south-west London, which is run by the local council, the London borough of Merton.

She will say that when she took the position in 2007 managers initially agreed to accommodate the requirements of her faith. But within a few months of starting the job, Miss Mba says managers began pressuring her to work on Sundays. She found herself repeatedly allocated Sunday shifts and threatened with disciplinary measures unless she agreed to compromise her church commitments, meaning she had no alternative but to resign from the job she loved.

Miss Mba, whose case is scheduled to begin tomorrow , said: “The only day I ever refused to work was Sunday. They knew this when I took the job. I did not hide my faith. But then they began to demand that I work on Sunday.” She added: “In one confrontation with a line manager he insisted that I should work on Sunday, and I felt so intimidated. Other members of staff offered to do Sundays for me, but were refused, and I said I was happy to work night shifts and Saturdays. I was issued with a 'management instruction’ that I had to work on Sundays, but I told them that management instruction or not, I have to honour God. I felt they were all ganging up on me. Eventually I was left with no choice, and had to resign. My employers treated me unjustly because of my faith. I cannot say whether they were prejudiced or not because it is only God that can see in their hearts.”

Miss Mba has not worked since her resignation in July 2010, although she said she had applied for numerous childcare positions and for other jobs in the hotel industry.

“I just love worshipping God and I want to do so without restriction,” said Miss Mba, who has three grown-up children and previously worked as a volunteer counsellor for the ChildLine charity. “It was very painful to resign from a job I loved. But I always told my children that if they came between me and God that I would always choose Him. I felt the same way when I had to choose between a job and worshipping Jesus.”

Her legal defence is being funded by the Christian Legal Centre which has instructed Paul Diamond, a leading religious rights barrister, to fight the case.
Miss Mba will claim she suffered constructive dismissal on the grounds of religious discrimination.

The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations, published in 2003, say employers must justify Sunday working as a “legitimate business need” and does not give a blanket right to Christians not to work. If they fail to treat staff fairly and proportionately, the employee may be able to claim discrimination, the rules add.

In 1994, when Sunday trading in England was liberalised shopworkers were given a guarantee that working would be strictly voluntary, but the guarantee did not apply to people in other sectors. There are no official figures on the number of Christians who have refused to work on Sundays, but a poll conducted in 2005 found 87 per cent of people said they believed a common day off was important for family stability and community life.

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “This is another case where we see a lack of respect being given to the Christian faith.
“Celestina was a hard working employee who wished to observe Sunday. A public body like the London Borough of Merton should set the highest standards and not behave like this. No doubt Merton will spend considerable amounts of public money to resist this Christian lady.”

She added: “Her employers had known, from the outset, of her desire not to work on Sundays and had sensibly accommodated her. When they sought to force her to work on Sundays she offered to work unsociable hours on Saturdays and night shifts, she offered to take home less money but the employer, rather than accommodate her, forced her to resign. It is not beyond the wit of man to devise a rota system that respects and accommodates the Christian belief of employees.”

A Merton council spokeswoman said: “It is not appropriate for the council to comment at this point in the proceedings.”

In a similar employment tribunal case in 2003, a quarry worker claimed his Christian beliefs had been treated with “contempt” by employers who tried to force him to work on Sundays. Stephen Copsey’s case went all the way to the Court of Appeal in 2005 but he lost, with judges ruling his employer had “compelling economic reasons” for insisting that he worked on Sundays.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9090591/Christian-launches-Sunday-working-legal-claim.html

If it was made clear to her employer's at the outset, prior to the acceptance of the job I can't see that the council has a leg to stand on. It sounds as though Miss Mba tried everything to reach a suitable compromise.

Of course, people who are in need of care need that service regardless of what day of the week it might be so it does put councils in a difficult position. Based on the facts reported it sounds like an open and shut case to me. Perhaps there is more to it? scratch




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Re: Christian launches Sunday working legal claim

Post by Guest on Sun Feb 19, 2012 3:47 pm

There may be, as you say if it was initially agreed they are in the wrong and if the shifts were covered by others this does smack of discrimination.

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Re: Christian launches Sunday working legal claim

Post by Guest on Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:14 pm

“Her employers had known, from the outset, of her desire not to work on Sundays and had sensibly accommodated her. When they sought to force her to work on Sundays she offered to work unsociable hours on Saturdays and night shifts, she offered to take home less money but the employer, rather than accommodate her, forced her to resign."

I'm not religious at all but respect other's right to their beliefs. I can't believe for a second this couldn't have been sorted out amicably between employer, Miss Mba and her colleagues. I wonder if they were concerned about setting a precedent? confused


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Re: Christian launches Sunday working legal claim

Post by Guest on Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:29 am

Thats probably it. They cant change things retrospectively so I think she may win, but i dont see why they cant put on future adverts bla bla hours including sundays. Then anyone applying is aware of the terms of employment.

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Re: Christian launches Sunday working legal claim

Post by Guest on Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:14 am

Well I was about to come on and, especially after reading her job was caring for disabled children, go all out on how she damn well should have to work Sundays Neutral

However; as the company had been made clear of her 'situation' it does seem unreasonable now to expect her to do so. They should definitley she will definitley win any case concerning discrimination.

On another note; since this is her taking her faith a bit seriously, and we are (according to some) a 'Christian Nation'... does this mean, that if we were all good little Christian boys and girls, that disabled children would just be expected to 'look after themselves' on weekends since we have our instructions from God not to lift a finger??? As she is working with disabled children, an admirable job for sure, you'd think the Christian values she holds so high would make her less concerned with dogmatically fighting for a Sunday off and more concerned with those she is meant to be caring for Rolling Eyes

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Re: Christian launches Sunday working legal claim

Post by Guest on Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:26 am

eilzel wrote:Well I was about to come on and, especially after reading her job was caring for disabled children, go all out on how she damn well should have to work Sundays Neutral

However; as the company had been made clear of her 'situation' it does seem unreasonable now to expect her to do so. They should definitley she will definitley win any case concerning discrimination.

On another note; since this is her taking her faith a bit seriously, and we are (according to some) a 'Christian Nation'... does this mean, that if we were all good little Christian boys and girls, that disabled children would just be expected to 'look after themselves' on weekends since we have our instructions from God not to lift a finger??? As she is working with disabled children, an admirable job for sure, you'd think the Christian values she holds so high would make her less concerned with dogmatically fighting for a Sunday off and more concerned with those she is meant to be caring for Rolling Eyes

You make a good point, I hae known many Christians for whom being seen going to church was far more important than behaving in a Christian manner!

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Re: Christian launches Sunday working legal claim

Post by Guest on Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:46 pm

Nems Again wrote:

You make a good point, I hae known many Christians for whom being seen going to church was far more important than behaving in a Christian manner!

I do agree with Miss Mba in this instance if the facts are as reported. If she made it clear at the outset, an open and shut case as far as I'm concerned.

She sounds like a lovely lady, admirable but I take Eilzel's point and it is one of my biggest frustrations as far as religion is concerned. It's interpreted incorrectly and misused by many to serve their own purposes No

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