An electrician faces the sack for displaying a small palm cross on the dashboard of his company van. Former soldier Colin Atkinson has been summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the giant housing association where he has been employed for 15 years because he refuses to remove the symbol….Throughout his time at work, he has had an 8in-long cross made from woven palm leaves attached to the dashboard shelf below his windscreen without receiving a single complaint.
But his bosses at publicly funded Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) in West Yorkshire – the fifth-biggest housing organisation in England – have demanded he remove the cross on the grounds it may offend people or suggest the organisation is Christian. Mr Atkinson’s union representative said he faces a full disciplinary hearing next month for gross misconduct, which could result in dismissal…Despite the company’s treatment of Mr Atkinson, the boss of the depot where he works…has been allowed to adorn his office with a poster of the Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara. Denis Doody…also has a whiteboard on which are written several quotations by the Marxist guerrilla leader…Colleagues said staff and even members of the public who were visiting the depot would be able to see the poster and whiteboard through his office window. . . .
[T]he company’s equality and diversity manager, Jayne O’Connell . . . replied: ‘WDH has a stance of neutrality. We now have different faiths, new emerging cultures. We have to be respectful of all views and beliefs.’
. . . At another meeting, Ms O’Connell said Mr Atkinson could express his faith but ‘it is quite clear it cannot be associated with WDH and displaying the cross gives the impression that WDH is a Christian organisation’. She said staff could demonstrate their personal beliefs ‘discreetly’, even adding that the company could provide extra material in its official corporate colours ‘for employees who wish to wear a different style of uniform’. Pressed… on whether a Muslim woman who wore a burka at work would be considered discreet, she said: ‘If they could do their job effectively, then yes.
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