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Airline in dispute with cross-wearing employee

British Airways has become embroiled in a dispute with a check-in official at Heathrow Airport in London who refused a company request to cover up the cross she was wearing around her neck.

Nadia Eweida, aged 55, who is on unpaid leave until the dispute is resolved, claims the right to display her Christian religious affiliation in a discreet way.

The cross is less than two centimetres wide, and Eweida asserted she was not being given the same rights by the company as Muslims and Sikhs, who may wear headscarves and turbans.

The BBC reported on 25 October that Eweida had rejected a compromise offer of a back-room job where she would not wear uniform or have to conceal her cross.

"Why should I have to go and hide myself in a recruitment job out of sight of passengers and uniformed colleagues?" it reported her as saying.

Earlier, British lawmaker Ann Widdecombe described the airline’s policy as "crazy" and said she would boycott the airline, encouraging other travellers to follow her example.

"Please e-mail BA and tell them you will choose other airlines when flying unless they reverse their ruling," a message on her Web site www.annwiddecombemp.com stated, describing the policy as discrimination against Christians.

A spokesperson for British Airways told Ecumenical News International the matter was an internal issue which was still being considered. "Investigation is continuing and could take some weeks to resolve," he said.

In a statement the company said it did not have a policy banning the wearing of religious symbols, but its policy for several years was that they should be worn underneath the uniform.

However, it stated, it was not practical for turbans and headscarves to be concealed.

(c) Ecumenical News International