Why SkyCity was well within its rights

Southland Times Work To Rule columnist Mary-Jane Thomas is a partner at Preston Russell Law.
Southland Times Work To Rule columnist Mary-Jane Thomas is a partner at Preston Russell Law.

Biblegate annoyed me, writes Mary-Jane Thomas in Work to Rule.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about how a guy was justifiably dismissed for turning a car stereo up. The company had rules, he had been warned, he did not follow the rules, he got dismissed.

With all due respect to the lady involved who was employed by the casino, I do not see why she thought that she should be allowed to break the rules just because it was a bible she was carrying.

I mean, would it be any different if she had a Best Bets in her pocket? Before all the Christians out there get angry at me, I'm being serious.

Let's say I am a keen punter. During my break I want to read up on the form for the Saturday night trots at Forbury.

Does anyone think that Sky City would have got into this much trouble if they said to me "no, you cannot carry around Best Bets in your pocket to read in your break" – of course they would not have.

So let us look at the argument for why not allowing the lady to have the bible in her pocket was argued as being discrimination.

I set out below some of the quotes from the Unite union:

"What happened to freedom of opinion and religion as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights?" and "We tried to explain that a business that feeds off gambling addictions of many people in this country and is seen as a den of inequity already won't do its reputation any good. However, our efforts fell on deaf ears."

Well, the employer wasn't stopping the employee from freedom of opinion or religion. It was not discriminating against the employee at all on religious grounds. If the policy was that employees could carry things in their pockets but not bibles that would be totally different.

It wasn't doing that.

The union also said her job was at risk, which brought up the obligatory TV news footage of the employee crying. The Sky City human resources group manager responded by saying "It is an issue that is at worst misconduct, carrying something that does not comply with our uniform policy. At worst, through our policies it would result in a warning. That's not our plan."

The end result was that "the bible she is carrying now is much smaller – she can fit it into her pocket. It does appear she would be able to carry it without it being visible to customers and therefore from an appearance standpoint it does fit with our uniform policy."

Thank goodness. Yet another crisis averted.


» Mary-Jane Thomas is a partner at Preston Russell Law. E-mail questions to mary-jane.thomas@prlaw.co.nz.

The Southland Times