Companies Can Ban Employees From Wearing Headscarves, Europe's Top Court Rules

Janie Parker
March 16, 2017

In May 2016, a top European Union court adviser said that employers have the right to ban headscarves as long as it is a ban that is imposed on all religious symbols.

Reality Check verdict: The EU court ruling does allow private companies to adopt rules that bar workers from wearing religious symbols under certain conditions but is not a blanket ban on Islamic headscarves.

The decision stemmed from two cases in France and Belgium where women were dismissed from their jobs for wearing headscarves to work; one woman was sacked for violating her company's informal neutral dress policy, the other was asked to leave after a customer complained about her head covering.

"Important ruling by the European Court of Justice: employers have the right to ban the Islamic veil at work".

The European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday on a case concerning two Muslim women who were fired for refusing to remove their headscarves.

Evans went on to say that, "Where a ban on employees wearing religious or political symbols is founded on a general company rule of religious neutrality, and where that rule is applied equally to all, it can't realistically be argued that this constitutes "less favourable treatment".

Employers can ban workers from wearing headscarves at work, Europe's top court has ruled.

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, said May and her ministers had adopted a "complacent" strategy to the Brexit negotiations. It is now widely expected that Article 50 will be triggered at some point in the week of March 27.

In respect of the indirect discrimination claim, the court was clear that pressure from a customer whose preference was not to deal with an employee of a particular religion will not amount to justification. But the rule could still be justified if it was "genuinely pursued in a consistent and systematic manner" to project an "image of neutrality".

"Nobody should be forced to choose between their religion and their profession", said Adina Portaru, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom International in Brussels.

Dutch MPs voted in support of a partial ban on full-face Islamic veils a year ago, but no law has yet been implemented, while prohibitions have been implemented in France, Belgium, Bulgaria and parts of Switzerland.

The receptionist, Samira Achbita, was sacked in 2006 after deciding she would wear an Islamic headscarf to work, "contrary to the position of neutrality G4S adopted in its contacts with its customers", the ECJ said.

She then began Belgian court proceedings against wrongful dismissal, backed from 2009 by the Belgium Center for Equal Opportunities.

French conservative candidate Francois Fillon hailed the ECJ ruling as "an enormous relief" to companies and workers that would contribute to "social peace".

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Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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