A nurse with decades of experience is suing her employer in the United Kingdom for discrimination after she says she was maligned and treated unfairly for wearing her Christian cross to work.
Mary Onuoha, who emigrated to the U.K. from Nigeria in 1988, was first inspired to enter the field of nursing after her brother died due to lack of proper care.
She had been working for Croydon University Hospital since 2002 and always wore her gold cross while on duty as an emblem of her devout faith.
“Patients often say to me ‘I really like your cross.’ They always respond to it in a positive way and that gives me joy and makes me feel happy. I am proud to wear it as I know God loves me so much and went through this pain for me,” says Onuoha, according to International Christian Concern.
“From a young age I naturally always wanted to care for people – it was in my blood. All I have ever wanted is to be a nurse and to be true to my faith,” she says. “I am a strong woman, but I have been treated like a criminal.”
In 2015, managers began to tell her that she could not wear the necklace to work, citing safety concerns.
Onuoha, who appeared before the Croydon Employment Tribunal on October 5 to initiate her suit against the hospital, says that she was treated in a discriminatory manner and that other employees were never molested for their religious garb or jewelry.
“This has always been an attack on my faith,” she says. “My cross has been with me for 40 years. It is part of me, and my faith, and it has never caused anyone any harm.”
“At this hospital there are members of staff who go to a mosque four times a day and no one says anything to them,” she explains. “Hindus wear red bracelets on their wrists and female Muslims wear hijabs in theatre. Yet my small cross around my neck was deemed so dangerous that I was no longer allowed to do my job.”
Onuoha was humiliated to be demoted to receptionist over her refusal to cease wearing her cross despite her decades of experience as a nurse.
She says the situation came to a head when, in 2018, a hospital manager confronted her in the middle of a surgery, insisting she either conceal or remove the cross.
The dedicated nurse, who refused to leave her patient to comply with what seemed to her to be an utterly arbitrary request, says that the anesthetist was also wearing a necklace and earrings and was never confronted.
“I love my job, but I am not prepared to compromise my faith for it, and neither should other Christian staff in this country.”
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