A New Zealand union claims a casino worker could be fired for keeping a Bible with her during her shift – an action which the casino says is a violation of its uniform code.
Last week Tuni Parata, a tower host at SkyCity Casino in Auckland, received a letter from her employers accusing her of misconduct for having the Bible, the NZ Herald reports. The letter states disciplinary action may be taken because she was seen with a "non-work related material in a front of house work environment."
Parata has been a SkyCity employee for 16 years and now fears that she will lose her job over the issue. Her disciplinary hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
Mike Treen, national director of Unite union, calls the accusations against Parata "absurd." The union has asked the casino not to take disciplinary action against her.
"Since when does carrying a Bible in your pocket become unlawful in New Zealand workplaces?" asked Treen, according to the Herald. Although he acknowledged the need for casinos to have strict policies for workers who handle money, Treen says SkyCity went "overboard" when it called out Parata for keeping her Bible with her.
Grainne Troute, SkyCity general manager of group services, said in a press release that Treen's statements are "alarmist" and as such "do not fairly reflect the situation."
"Different roles have different uniform standards but as a general principle staff in customer service roles are in breach of SKYCITY's uniform standards if they carry items such as personal mobile phones, books and other items which might interfere with their full engagement with their customers," said Troute.
She later added, "A breach of uniform policies such as this is not considered 'serious misconduct' and would not be expected to result in the dismissal of any staff member."
Parata told the Herald that she believes keeping a Bible with her at all times is an important part of her relationship with God, though she chose to say little else until the disciplinary hearing is over.
Christopher Huriwai, a theology student and deacon of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, said in a recent blog post that he thinks the casino acted within their rights but could have handled the situation more gently.
"SkyCity isn't banning Ms. Parata from bringing the Bible to work and reading it during her breaks, SkyCity isn't saying that she must choose between her faith and her job, SkyCity isn't saying that the Bible, in and of itself is the issue," Huriwai wrote. "SkyCity is, however badly, simply enforcing a standing policy in regards to staff uniforms, something they shouldn't be made out to be anti-faith or anti-Christian for doing."
Although the casino may not be seen as anti-Christian, Treen is questioning whether or not Parata's rights are being violated by her employers.
"What happened to freedom of opinion and religion as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights?" he asked, according to the Herald. He added, "We do not believe that ordering staff not to carry a pocket Bible is a lawful or reasonable instruction in a workplace in the 21st century."