Top European court: Employers allowed to ban headscarves

ECJ rules that an employer has the right to forbid employees from wearing visible religious symbols.

Contact Editor
Tal Polon,

Arab Muslim woman burka hijab face veil
Arab Muslim woman burka hijab face veil
Thinkstock

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday that an employer has the right to forbid his or her employees from wearing visible religious symbols.

The ruling was given as the result of two cases in which two Muslim women, one from Belgium and the other from France, had been fired for wearing headscarves at their places of employment.

The Court said in a statement that “an internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination.”

On the other hand, while a company is free, according to the ruling, to prohibit the public display of religious articles of apparel based on its own internal set of rules, it cannot impose such restrictions based on a customer complaint.

“In the absence of such a [company] rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination,” the Court said.

While the ruling did not relate to Jewish religious articles of clothing in particular, the wording of the ruling leaves room for that interpretation.








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