London, Oct 5 (UNI) In a swift turnaround, a Hindu woman who was sacked from her job at Heathrow airport last month for wearing a nose stud as a religious symbol has been reinstated and told by her employer British Airways that she can continue to wear the stud to work.
Amrit Lalji (40) who had worked in the VIP lounge of Terminal One for more than a year, was instructed by a British Airways manager to remove her nose stud this summer. She refused to comply to the order saying that it had religious significance and signified her married status, after which she was sacked from her job.
But yesterday her union said that she would resume work at the airport from Sunday. She had better luck than the four-month suspension suffered by another Heathrow worker, Nadia Eweida, for wearing a Christian cross.
Mrs Lalji's employers, Eurest, said yesterday her sacking had been a mistake based on a misinterpretation of its own regulations.
When she was sacked a spokesman for Eurest said that Mrs Lalji had been made aware of company policy on jewellery that prohibits 'flesh piercings' which can be hazardous to customers. He said ''Mrs Lalji's decision not to return to work without the nose stud contravenes company rules and regulations and she was dismissed,'' he said.
After her sack, Hindu leaders defended her right to wear the stud as a significant part of her faith. The UK Hindu Council said, ''It is as integral a part of the Hindu wedding ceremony as the giving of a wedding ring is within a Christian marriage.'' ''If the company concerned allows wedding bands, we don't see why she can't wear a tiny nose stud.'' Commenting on her reinstatement, a spokesman for Eurest said that the company had discovered that ''The rules relating to facial piercings are mandatory only in catering operations.'' ''Though this is not clear in the handbook, which is given to all employees, it is specific in the text of the Company's HR Directory, which is the primary source policy document,'' he said.
He added ''Since Mrs Lalji is not engaged in catering, her dismissal resulted from a misunderstanding of the rules and is therefore unjustified.'' Tahir Bhatti, speaking for the union, said ''GMB is pleased to have been able to assist Mrs Lalji in this matter and welcomes Eurest's decision that she is reinstated in her position immediately and without detriment.'' In the case of Nadia Eweida, the airline backed down four months later after pressure from religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.