Judgment for disciplined senior occupational therapist Victoria Wasteney has been reserved for a later date, after an Employment Appeal Tribunal heard her case in February.
Ms Wasteney was disciplined by her National Health Service (NHS) employer in 2014 for praying with a Muslim colleague and giving a book to her about a woman who had converted from Islam.
In April 2015, the Employment Tribunal ruled that the East London NHS Foundation Trust acted reasonably in disciplining Miss Wasteney for praying with a colleague, handing her a Christian book and inviting her to church events.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), Ms Wasteney won permission to appeal the ruling against her last October, when the judge recognised the significance of her case with regard to the issue of religious freedom, under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Judge Eady QC said the Employment Appeal Tribunal should consider whether the original ruling had properly applied the ECHR’s strong protection of freedom of religion and expression.
A statement from the CLC said the treatment of Miss Wasteney, who has an exemplary work record and has been employed at the NHS trust for eight years, ‘raised serious concerns’ that equality policies in the NHS are stifling ordinary conversations about faith and damaging the development of healthy working relationships.
Even though the colleague had given her consent, senior managers also told Ms Wasteney she was wrong to pray with her and invite her to church events.
These events had taken place over the course of several months, in the context of what she believed to be a genuine friendship.
Ms Wasteney, who had been suspended for nine months, was represented at the appeal hearing by standing counsel to the CLC, Paul Diamond.
In a statement from the CLC after the appeal, Ms Wasteney said, ‘I conducted all my conversations with my colleague in a sensitive and appropriate way. I knew she was from a different faith background and I was respectful of that. I didn’t force my beliefs on anyone at any point. Surely there should be room for mutual conversations about faith, where appropriate, in the workplace?’