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11.18am Harassment in the workplace generally brings up images of executives patting secretaries on the bottom while walking into a meeting room. And if any legal dispute comes of it, then the employment litigation lawyers get to work.
11 February, 11.18am
Harassment in the workplace generally brings up images of executives patting secretaries on the bottom while walking into a meeting room. And if any legal dispute comes of it, then the employment litigation lawyers get to work.
But the case of Caroline Petrie, a nurse from Weston-Super-Mare, is different. She was accused of harassment in the workplace for offering to pray for a patient. The patient said no and Petrie was suspended from her job for trying to force her religion onto the patient.
But Petrie didn’t turn to employment lawyers following her suspension, choosing instead to call on the Christian Legal Centre, which in turn called Cambridge barrister Paul Diamond. As a religious freedom litigation specialist, Diamond occupies the nichest niche of them all.
On Petrie’s case Diamond said: “The legal issue would be how many rights do you take into the employment field? Where does the right to free speech and religious freedom become harassment? If you discuss politics in the workplace, why can’t you discuss religion?”
Diamond clearly had a point and he convinced North Somerset Primary Care Trust to reinstate Petrie. Diamond also handled the British Airways Cross case where a flight attendant was dropped for wearing a crucifix.
Wherever you hear the words “it’s political correctness gone mad”, you can be sure that Diamond is on the case after building a leading practice in the religious freedom niche.
“I’m a one-man-band. I’m very niche, but it’s growing a lot,” says Diamond. He attributes the growth in his practice to culture clashes in multi-cultural Britain coupled with an increase in relevant legislation. “It’s a burgeoning market and fiercely competitive now I would say,” he adds.
Diamond’s interest in the cross over between religion and the law has been with him since his student days, when he was legal counsel to the Keep Sunday Special campaign in the 1980s.
Despite the niche, Diamond does venture out of the religious world from time to time. As he says: “I’m doing a housing case in the Court of Appeal next week.”