[JURIST] A New Jersey appeals court on Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF] the firing of corrections officer Linda Tisby, who was terminated for wearing a hijab to work as an expression of her religious beliefs. Tissuey, who had worked for the jail for 13 years, argued that her beliefs required her to wear the religious headscarf while she was at work and that her firing was a violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination [text]. The court, however, disagreed [USA Today report] holding that Tisby’s hijab was an exception to the law as it would cause an “undue burden” on the jail due to “overriding safety concerns, the potential for concealment of contraband and the importance of uniform neutrality.” Several groups have expressed concern with the ruling, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations [advocacy website] calling the ruling “negative precedent.”
Hijab, burqas and other religious symbols have been a controversial subject. Last year a Canadian Superior Court justice ruled that a decision to deny a woman’s case in court because she refused to remove her hijab went against [JURIST report] the fundamental principles of Canadian law. In 2013 a Quebec official proposed a bill [JURIST report] banning religious headwear for public workers. Belgium officially banned [JURIST report] burqas in July 2011. France’s ban on burqas took effect [JURIST report] in April 2011. Some commentators have suggested that the rationales behind the European burqa bans are weak [JURIST op-ed] and that the true purpose of the bills is societal discomfort.