A British Airways pilot who refused to wear a mask during the corona pandemic lost a legal dispute against his former employer before the responsible labor court. The court rejected the arguments, which also touched on religious issues.
The man worked as a first officer for British Airways. There was a falling out during the corona pandemic because he is said to have strictly refused to follow the mask requirement at the time. The airline subsequently announced the termination. The pilot did not want to accept this and went to the responsible labor court.
During the oral hearing, which was reported by Mail Online among others, the co-pilot is said to have said that he was a "sovereign being who has a right to breathe freely". He further argued that his refusal to wear a mask “corresponds to a religious belief and therefore must be protected.” The man also made a comparison between masks and headscarves, which are widely used in Islam, for example.
However, the presiding judge was not convinced by the dismissed first officer's preliminary arguments. She rejected claims that dismissals for refusing to wear masks would breach UK equality laws. She also found that the co-pilot could jeopardize the right to life of other people by refusing to wear a mask, as they could be more easily infected with Covid-19 without a mask. The actions of the airline British Airways corresponded to the scientific findings at the time.
Ultimately the lawsuit was dismissed. In the ruling, the judge said, among other things, that the plaintiff “seems to recognize that the exercise of his human rights in relation to not wearing a mask could pose a problem for those who are at risk. His belief is therefore in conflict with the fundamental rights of others, such as Article 2, right to life.”
It should be noted that British Airways did not terminate the plaintiff entirely, but rather placed him on unpaid leave for an indefinite period due to his refusal to wear a mask. Since no salary was paid during this time, the pilot perceived this as a termination. He had worked for British Airways since 1996 and had not been flying for around 20 months at the time of the incident that led to the rift due to the pandemic. His “comeback” was prevented by the refusal to wear a mask.