Picture shows two women wearing a headscarf and reading.
  Not only headscarf-wearing Muslim women, but other working people who express their religious adherence through clothing and insignia could be affected by the ruling. Photo credit: Getty Images on BBC News' website

EU workplace headscarf ban is legal, says ECJ

Article in BBC News
14 March, 2017

“Employers are entitled to ban workers from the “visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign” including headscarves, Europe’s top court has ruled.

But the ban must be based on internal company rules requiring all employees to “dress neutrally”, said the European Court of Justice (ECJ). It cannot be based on the wishes of a customer, it said.

It is the court’s first decision on the issue of Islamic headscarves at work.

The ECJ’s ruling was prompted by the case of a receptionist fired for wearing a headscarf to work at the security company G4S in Belgium. Belgium’s court of cassation had referred the case to the EU’s top court for clarification.

The issues of Muslim dress and the integration of immigrant communities has featured prominently in debates in several European countries in recent years. Austria and the German state of Bavaria have recently announced bans on full-face veils in public spaces.”

A terrible decision, which does not give precedence to individual religious freedom over the power of the employer in labour relations, on an issue of little relevance for the bottom line of most employers. This legitimation of demonising external signs of religious faith will really only apply to Muslims. It is a recipe for unleashing and condoning intolerant behaviour. It pushes back by at least half a generation a proper and reasonable understanding of the role of freedom of religion in our human rights system. The Court should know better.

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