ECJ Allows Employers to Ban Headscarves among Other Religious Symbols

Posted March 16, 2017

"What a business can not do is make up the rules in retrospect to try and justify its position".

Such a ban does not constitute what Europe's high court calls "direct discrimination". Critics have stated that the ruling may prevent Muslim women from working and may further promote hate crimes.

European rabbis condemned an E.U. court's ruling allowing firms to prohibit employees' religious clothes and symbols, saying the ruling amounts to saying that "faith communities are no longer welcome".

ECJ said French courts must now decide if plaintiff Asma Bougnaoui was unjustly fired from the IT consultancy firm Micropole.

The Open Society Justice Initiative, a group which supported the two women in the cases, told Reuters it was disappointed by the ruling which it said "weakens the guarantee of equality that is at the heart of the EU's anti-discrimination directive".

The Church of England has condemned a "troubling" European Court of Justice ruling which allows employers to ban their workers from wearing crucifixes in the workplace.

Ultimately, the court ruled that Achbita's firing was fair because G4S had a blanket rule against all political, philosophical and religious symbols, therefore it was indiscriminate.

G4S management responded that this would not be tolerated because the visible wearing of political, philosophical or religious signs was contrary to the position of neutrality the company adopted in its contacts with its customers.

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The church said the decision would prevent Christians from exercising their religious freedom.

On Tuesday, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that employers can ban their workers from wearing any religious symbol, including headscarves worn by some Muslim women.

France already bans headscarves and other religious symbols in classrooms as well as face-covering veils in streets.

"Such discrimination may be justified in order to enforce a policy of religious and ideological neutrality", concluded Kokott.

Although they apply to all beliefs, the ECJ said it was "not inconceivable" that such rules could be deemed discriminatory for indirectly targeting Islam over other religions.

She claims that she was being discriminated against on the grounds of her religion but the case was dismissed by two courts.

"At a time when identity and appearance has become a political battleground, people need more protection against prejudice, not less", he noted. If a company has a clear dress/appearance policy that is neutral in terms of gender, religion, politics etc. then it is likely to be acceptable if applied to all employees'.