Pilot banned for refusing to wear mask loses discrimination case against British Airways

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A pilot of British Airways who refused to wear a mask during the Covid-19 pandemic because he was a “to be sovereign” loses his case for discrimination against his direction.

The British Airways pilot has lost an employment tribunal case against the airline for discrimination, harassment and unlawful withholding of pay because he refused to wear a face mask during the pandemic. Peter Burch tried to claim that he was “a sovereign being who has the right to breathe freely” and that he should not be subject to rules “arbitrary and unnecessary”. The experienced co-pilot argued that his stance against wearing a mask amounted to a religious belief and therefore had to be protected by law. But an employment tribunal judge ruled that this decision could not be upheld because it potentially undermined the human rights “fundamentals” other people who may catch the virus by refusing to mask. Consequently, his allegations of discrimination and of harassment against British Airways were dismissed.

After 20 months of reduced pay and layoff, Mr. Burch was asked to return to work but had to follow a training including a training flight in February 2022 in Miami. However, the night before the flight he had a “major stress reaction” after his captain sent him a copy of the airline’s policy requiring him to wear a mask on board. It was “so stressed” that he declared himself ill. Then, during his scheduled training session, Mr. Burch showed up to work without a mask, claiming he was ” exemption “ to wear one. Which he was refused. As Mr. Burch refused to comply, he was placed on unpaid leave. Mr Burch then took BA to court for discrimination, arguing its anti-mask stance should be protected by equality laws.

During the trial at Watford Crown Court, Hertfordshire, Mr Burch said he had worked for the airline since 1996first as captain on short-haul flights, then as co-pilot for 15 years on long-haul flights where he was in command of Boeing 747.

John Walker Avatar