A former Qantas employee claims the airline discriminated against the Christian faith by demanding that she and others discard their religious insignia.
Meanwhile, the former employee claims, Muslim women were allowed to wear head scarfs.
Georgina Sarikoudis is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. She claims that managers subjected her to “threats and ridicule”, and ordered her to cut off her prayer-knot bracelet and remove her necklace, which had a crucifix on it.
“The Qantas uniform policy allows for head scarfs by Muslim females but no allowance for the wearing of crucifixes, religious bracelets or other religious…artefacts,” claims Sarikoudis. “Qantas staff have a religious belief other than Muslim.”
Sarikoudis says that she wore a crucifix for 19 years at the airline. Late last year, however, when Qantas changed its uniforms, she was confronted about her religious accessories.
The staff dress code did not change: while it prohibits all non-medical visible necklaces and bracelets, women are allowed to wear head scarfs for “cultural, religious and medical reasons.”
The former Melbourne Airport customer service agent says she suffered months of bullying, despite which she refused to take off or hide the jewelry. She also noted that other staff members, including a woman who wore rosary beads, were ordered to remove jewelry that featured Christian icons.
Sarikoudis claims she was “grilled” about her devotion to her beliefs and her reasons for wanting to wear religious symbols.
“For Christians, this is our uniform. Everyone should be allowed to manifest their religion as they see fit,” said Sarikoudis, who accepted a redundancy offer earlier this year.
The Herald Sun reports that in her claim before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Sarikoudis is demanding that the airline change its uniform policy to allow “religious items of significance” to be worn; she is also demanding an apology from her former employer.
A Qantas spokeswoman said that the uniform standards didn’t ban religious jewelry—as long as it was worn under the uniform.
“Many of our employees wear such jewelry every day, it’s simply worn under their uniform,” the spokeswoman said.
She noted that while there have been no changes to the company’s standards regarding religious jewelry since the introduction of the new uniform, “we have reminded employees of what the uniform standards are.”
“We give our employees plenty of options so they can continue to wear religious jewelry that is in accordance with the requirement of their faith,” the spokeswoman continued.