"Employers may ban headscarf " Author: CDC

Belga
Tue 14/03/2017 - 10:35 CDC The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that European employers have the right to ban employees from wearing a headscarf or any other religious symbol to work. It was a Belgian woman who took the matter to the ECJ after her employer, the security firm G4S, had asked her not to wear a headscarf to work. The woman was sacked when she continued to wear the headdress.

The ECJ says that employers may demand that their staff have a neutral appearance. The measure must apply to all forms of religious, philosophical and political symbols.

It was a woman of the Muslim faith who joined forces with the equal opportunities and anti-racism centre Unia to seek the views of European judges in a case against security firm G4S Secure Solutions. The woman was hired as a receptionist in 2003. At the company there was an unwritten rule that staff should not wear any outward signs of their political, philosophical or religious conviction at work. In 2006 the woman indicated her wish to wear a headscarf to work. In that same year the company added the until now unwritten rule to its list of regulations. As the woman continued to wear the headdress she was sacked.

The case went to court and the legal process went all the way to the ECJ. A similar French case was considered at the same time. Last year the court's advocate-general advised that a ban on the Islamic headscarf was not necessarily discriminatory. The rule must, however, apply to all visible political, religious and philosophical signs and not to religious views in general or one particular faith.