Tribunal rules against Christian employee who offered to pray for Muslim colleague

Victoria Wasteney gave her Muslim colleague a book about a woman who had an encounter with God.

An employment tribunal has ruled that an NHS trust was right to discipline an occupational therapist for offering to pray for a Muslim colleague and giving her a Christian book.

Victoria Wasteney, 37, offered to pray for a junior colleague when she was upset, and gave her a book about a Muslim woman who had an encounter with the Christian God.

The colleague, Enya Nawaz, later filed a report which said she had tried to convert her, an allegation which Wasteney says was a "complete surprise".

Wasteney is a senior occupational health therapist at the John Howard Centre, a specialist mental health facility in east London. She was suspended for nine months (on full pay) while the matter was investigated and subsequently given a written warning for "bullying and harassment".

The tribunal heard the case in January this year and made its decision last week. Wasteney is planning to appeal.

Following the decision, Wasteney said in a statement: "I am extremely disappointed with the Tribunal's decision to side with my employer. There is already an unnatural caginess around faith and belief which is an obstruction to building meaningful relationships in the workplace.

"This decision will only perpetuate that, to the detriment of working relationships in the NHS."

She maintains that she tried to act in a sensitive way. "I knew she was from a different faith background and I was respectful of that." Wasteney said. "Surely there should be room for mutual conversations about faith, where appropriate, in the workplace?"

Wasteney took the NHS trust to an employment tribunal to contest the decision, partly because she felt it was an issue that needs to be addressed at a societal level.

"I'm not particularly fighting for myself," Wasteney told Christian Today in January. "This needs to be something that's talked about.

"We need to look at some of our policies in place, so that staff are clear about where they stand. Otherwise we're going to have lots of people in this situation, not just Christians."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which has supported Wasteney's case, said: "Victoria has been punished and left out in the cold for being honest and open about her faith.

"Are these the kind of workplaces we want, where people are forced to hide their identity and the things that matter most to them?" Williams added. "Such an environment is detrimental to meaningful working relationships and ultimately to productivity."