The European Court of Justice ruled that employers can stop their employees from wearing “any political, philosophical or religious sign” such as headscarves, so long as they cite a workplace dress code that is not explicitly discriminatory.
Employers can stop their employees from wearing “any political, philosophical or religious sign” such as headscarves, crosses or yarmulkes, so long as they can cite a rule in their workplace’s dress code that is not explicitly discriminatory, Europe’s top court has ruled.
“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” the European Court of Justice said in a statement.
The European Court of Justice considered two cases of employees being fired after wearing headscarves at work before issuing its joint ruling on the presence of religious or political symbols at work, according to the Guardian .
One of the cases that appeared before the court stemmed from receptionist Samira Achbita’s dispute over being fired for wearing a headscarf to work in June 2006, according to the BBC. Achbita, who worked for the Belgian company G4S, alleged she had decided to start wearing her headscarf after working there for three years and was fired for violating a company rule. The other case involved design engineer Asma Bougnaoui, who was fired from her IT job when a customer said his staff was “embarrassed” by her headscarf, the Guardian reported.
The court ruled against Achbita, saying that because the company was not discriminating because its regulations prohibited all visible signs of any political, philosophical or religious beliefs “without distinction,” according to the Guardian.
Bougnaoui’s case, however, involved a customer — and the court said that a customer’s request was not enough to ask an employee to leave their religious garment or sign at home, the Guardian reported. Her employer’s desire to accommodate a customer who did not want someone with a headscarf “cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination,” the court wrote, in sending the case back to the Belgian court.