British Employment Tribunal
The British Employment Tribunal in Manchester, with Judge Robertson presiding, heard the case brought about by Lisa Ashton against her former employer BMI Airlines.
The job of an Employment Tribunal is to apply statute and case law to disputes between employees and employers. In some cases, the actual case involved due to precedent, might actually result in a new law.
Before we list a number of comments by the Judge it is important to remember that The Saudi Embassy in London and Washington, USA have stated that, “There is no requirement in Saudi for women to walk behind the men, nor for Western women to wear the Islamic abaya, the only requirement is for females to dress ‘conservatively’.”
Comments made by Judge Robertson:
- “It is not evident to the tribunal that women would regard the requirement to wear a particular item of clothing, the abaya, or to walk behind male colleagues in the airport, as anything more than part of the rules of a different culture.”
- “So did the requirement to travel to Saudi Arabia on the basis of the customs and practices set out in the 31st August 2005 document, (which included these particular matters as to women in Saudi Arabia), place women at a particular disadvantage when compared with men? The Tribunal does not regard this as self-evident.”
- “Similarly in this case the claimant has adduced no evidence that a restriction on wearing a cross or crucifix as an item of jewellery disadvantages Christians disproportionately as a group. There is no evidence, and no basis for the Tribunal to conclude, that proportionately more Christians than non-Christians would wish to wear a cross or crucifix. The Tribunal does not accept, in the absence of any evidence to the effect, that women would regard the requirement to fly on the basis of the document as placing them under any disadvantage.”
From the comments you can see Judge Robertson displays quite a staggering, racially stereotypical view of Saudi customs, law and culture. He has, along with BMI come to the conclusion that it is the “rules of a different culture” for women in Saudi to walk behind the men and be required to wear the Islamic abaya. According to the Saudi Authorites, it is not.
In the letter to Judge Robertson Lisa writes:
“quite how serious and dangerous this Judgment and the precedent it sets is can be shown via the following example.”
“Assume BMI decided to start flying to South Africa and informed its black crew to walk behind the white crew, despite apartheid disappearing years ago but simply because BMI’s racially stereotypical, culturally illiterate managers decide that it was still the “rules of a different culture” for the black crew to walk behind the white crew . Once this has been pondered, can I ask, what is the difference between my situation and the above one? Replace South Africa with Saudi and replace black with female, and you have exactly my case.”
“If this Judgment is allowed to stand, the Manchester Employment Tribunal will be stating clearly that it is acceptable for managers of British companies to insist that its staff follow discriminatory procedures, even if the host country does not require such policies.”
We also clearly informed him that Ms. Sharon Campbell a BMI Cabin Manager, on oath stated that, “All crew expected to operate to Saudi HAD been rostered a Saudi course.” This is false. Lisa was called out to operate to Saudi and she had not been rostered to attend the Saudi Course.
It will be interesting given this Judgment, if any other British Companies use this precedent to discriminate against its staff.
Judge Robertson has refused to grant Lisa an appeal.
Despite repeated requests from Lisa’s solicitors to the Tribunal for the Judgment, the tribunal failed to send a copy.