A senior employee at the upmarket jewellers Tiffany claims the company discriminated against her after she told a Jewish colleague that “Jews killed Jesus”.

Lawyers for devout Catholic Kristin Rightnour, 35, say she was treated unfairly for explaining the crucifixion story during a discussion about Easter 2014, during which she repeated the widely-held Catholic belief that Jews killed Jesus.

Rightnour says that a HR manager reprimanded her four months later, after the Jewish colleague complained, and that she was placed on a one-year probation. After she filed a complaint with the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, lawyers say she was passed over for promotion, and eventually fired.

“What you have here is an employer engaging in a systematic, yet brutally transparent scheme to punish an accomplished management-level employee for raising a good faith complaint – that she was treated disparately because of her religion,” her claim states.

In recent years, the Vatican has sought to overrule the 2,000-year old belief that Jews killed Jesus. In 1965, the important Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) declaration repudiated collective Jewish guilt for the crucifixion, and in 2011, German-born Pope Benedict XVI concluded that those responsible were the “Temple aristocracy” and supporters of the rebel Barabbas.