UK: Air stewardess sacked for refusing to wear abaya in Saudi Arabia
Date: 28 Apr 2009
Airline BMI sacked an air stewardess who refused demands that, when out in public in Saudi Arabia, she should wear the long black abaya robe and walk behind male colleagues. The company said that this was to conform with the social expectations of the country.
The stewardess, Lisa Ashton, was told that the abaya constituted her uniform when flying to the country. She refused, and told managers that the requirement was sexual discrimination. It is not the law, the said, that you have to wear the abaya or walk behind men and the requirement effectively made her into "a second-class citizen".
Faced with the requirements, Ashton said that she did not want to fly to Saudi Arabia. Previously, she had been working routes to India, the Caribbean and the US. The company instructed her to do the Saudi Arabia route, and when she refused she was sacked.
An employment tribunal cleared BMI of sexual discrimination and said it was justified for companies to impose rules of different cultures on staff in such circumstances.
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In a recent article, the BBC's economics editor Robert Peston highlighted the fact that in 2012 the chances are that the economy - punch drunk as it is from the various flavours of debt crisis it has been pummelled with over the course of the year - will be hit by the collapse of a major bank and / or government.
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