London, Sep 18 (UNI) Briitish Airways has sacked a Hindu woman from her job at its VIP lounge for wearing a tiny nose stud.
Amrit Lalji, 43, who refused to remove the stud as it is integral to her religious beliefs, said she was devastated by her bosses' decision.
The case follows the suspension of Heathrow worker Nadia Eweida for wearing a crucifix.
Mrs Lalji, a mother of three from Stanmore, North-West London, was a cleaner and customer relations worker for Eurest, which supplies food and services to BA's VIP lounge at Heathrow. Part of her job involved greeting first-class passengers at the lounge.
She had worn the stud without any complaints from customers since she started work in March last year, but last month she was told by bosses at Eurest that a BA manager had ordered her to remove it or lose her job. She was fired last week after a disciplinary hearing.
She said: "I am extremely upset by this and feel that I am being discriminated against. I had always made it clear that I wear it as part of my Hindu faith.
"I'm not expecting people to make huge exceptions for me and I could understand if I was wearing a massive stud but this is a tiny pin. It was so small it was almost impossible to see.
"I was completely happy to wear all the uniform. I'm just asking for a little bit of tolerance and common sense over me wearing a nose stud." A spokesman for the Hindu Council UK said: "It is as integral a part of the Hindu wedding ceremony as the giving of a wedding ring is within a Christian marriage.
"These marks are not just the outward symbol of marriage but traditionally they are believed to help ensure the match is harmonious.
"If the company concerned allows wedding bands, we don't see why she can't wear a tiny nose stud." Mrs Lalji has worn a stud for 25 years since her marriage to Devji, a 47-year-old carpenter. She is appealing against the decision and hoping to win back her 280 pounds-a-week job. In the meantime she said it will be a struggle for her and her husband to support their three children. "I don't know what's going to happen," she said.
"It's a very anxious time for me and my family." Tahir Bhatti, from the GMB union, which is backing her, said: "The company always knew she would not remove the nose stud and clearly had no problem with this until a manager complained." A Eurest spokesman said: "Mrs Lalji had been advised of company policy on a number of occasions which states that, with the exception of a plain wedding ring and sleeper earrings, jewellery must not be worn on duty and flesh piercings are not permitted.
Jewellery can harbour bacteria, create a hazard when working with machinery and find its way into food.
"Her decision not to return to work without the stud contravenes company regulations and she was dismissed." Last year BA suspended check-in worker Miss Eweida after she refused to stop wearing a tiny crucifix while on duty.
After extensive media coverage was given to her case, the airline faced widespread criticism and was forced to reinstate her. She is still awaiting a tribunal decision on whether she should receive pay she missed during her suspension.