EU top court: employers may ban headscarves in workplace News
EU top court: employers may ban headscarves in workplace

[JURIST] The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [judgment; press release, PDF] on Tuesday that EU companies, under permitted conditions, may ban employees from displaying political or religious symbols, including Islamic headscarves. In a related case, the ECJ determined [judgment] that Belgium security company G4S [corporate website], which dismissed a Muslim receptionist for wearing a hijab, was not discriminatory and properly applied a broad dress code to maintain a politically and religiously neutral work environment. The ECJ stated that even though such dress codes may indirectly effect certain employees, they are nevertheless permitted when supported by a “legitimate aim.” According to the ECJ, upholding an image of neutrality may qualify as such. The ruling comes in the midst of Muslim immigration concerns in Europe, and thus far the ruling has received praise from countries such as France where headscarves are already banned from public service jobs. Critics have stated that the ruling may prevent Muslim women from working and may further promote hate crimes. Advocacy group such as Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] claimed that the ruling contradicts equality in the workplace and opens a “backdoor” to the prejudices of clients.

Hijab, burqas and other religious symbols have been a controversial subject. In January a New Jersey appeals court upheldwent 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.