Europe says headscarves can be banned in workplace

Europe says headscarves can be banned in workplace

Europe says headscarves can be banned in workplace

At the time, the company had an unwritten rule prohibiting employees from wearing visible signs of their political, philosophical or religious beliefs.

European workplaces can bar female employees from wearing headscarves and other political or religious symbols, the EU's top court has ruled.

The ruling will have different impact in different countries based on national religious freedom laws, which vary from European Union nation to nation - headscarves are outright banned in France, for public sector jobs, for example.

The ECJ gave a joined judgment in the cases of two women, in France and Belgium, who were dismissed for refusing to remove headscarves.

'Whether this is a headscarf, cross or yarmulke it's vital that any employers who wish to do this ensure that they impose a blanket ban on all religious symbols, rather than one which discriminates against any one religion.

However the Court has left it open to the Belgian court to conclude that such a rule might amount to indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief if it could be established that a neutrality rule put "persons adhering to a particular religion or belief being put at a particular disadvantage".

The ruling could be used as a "licence to discriminate at the point of hire", said Mejindarpal Kaur, worldwide legal director of the network, United Sikhs, in an emailed statement.

"In many member states, national laws will still recognise that banning religious headscarves at work is discrimination", policy office Maryam Hmadoun said.

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The Court's ruling notes that any headscarf or similar ban needs to be part of a company-wide rule regulating dress for everyone.

Some countries such as Austria are mulling a complete ban on the full-face veil in public, while in France past year local authorities barred women wearing the burkini, the full-body swimsuit, fining those who did.

The ECJ ruled that a company's wish to project a neutral image was legitimate, reports The Guardian.

However, in the French case, design engineer Asma Bougnaoui was sacked from IT consultancy Micropole after a customer complained his staff had been "embarrassed" by Bougnaoui's headscarf when she was on-site to give advice.

The Luxembourg-based court had been solicited by the Court of Cassation, Belgium's court of last resort, over the case of Samira Achbita, who was dismissed in 2006 by the service company G4S.

Article 9 of the 1950 convention says everyone has the right to "manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance".

Debates about Muslim immigration and integration have dominated election campaigns in France and the Netherlands.

The Court also decided on a French preliminary question about what constitutes a "genuine and determining occupational requirement", which can justify both direct and indirect forms of discrimination based on belief.

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