A legal adviser to the European Court of Justice [official website] issued an opinion [opinion] Tuesday finding that an employer may ban an employee from wearing a headscarf for religious purposes. Written by Advocate General Juliane Kokott [official website], the opinion holds that “If the ban is based on a general company rule which prohibits political, philosophical and religious symbols from being worn visibly in the workplace, such a ban may be justified if it enables the employer to pursue the legitimate policy of ensuring religious and ideological neutrality.” The text goes on to explain that indirect discrimination may be acceptable if it is occurs in order to “enforce a legitimate policy of religious and ideological neutrality.” While Kokott’s opinion is not binding on the court, the court often adopts the advocate general’s opinion.
Face veils and other symbols of religion have been a controversial subject around the world. Last year the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] in favor of a Muslim woman who was denied a job [JURIST report] at Abercrombie & Fitch [corporate website] because of her headscarf. In September a Canadian court ruled that women may be allowed to wear [JURIST report] face-covering veils while swearing the oath of citizenship after an individual sued the country because she was not allowed to take part in the ceremony. Also in 2015, after suicide bombings in Fotokol by two women wearing burkas, Northern Cameroon banned [JURIST report] women from wearing burkas and face-covering veils as the bombs had been smuggled into public under veils. In July 2014 the European Court of Human Rights ruled [JURIST report] that France’s face covering ban is permissible under European law and complies with all articles of the Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and does not violate freedom of religion. In February 2013 the Spanish Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] a city ban on wearing veils over the face in municipal buildings, finding that the law infringes on religious freedom.