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Workplace hijab-ban permitted, rules Europe’s top court

25th Nov 2022
Workplace hijab-ban permitted, rules Europe’s top court

Court of Justice of the EU, Luxembourg (Credit: Transparency Intl EU Office Flickr)

Harun Nasrullah

European Union-based companies can ban the hijab as long as it is a general prohibition that does not discriminate against employees, ruled the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on October 13.

The case concerned a Muslim woman who was told she could not wear a headscarf when she applied to do a six-week work traineeship at a Belgian company, is the latest ruling on an issue that has divided Europe for years.

The firm said it has a neutrality rule, meaning no head covering is allowed on its premises, whether a cap, beanie or scarf. The woman took her grievance to a Belgian court, which subsequently sought advice from the CJEU.

The Luxembourg-based CJEU said there should not be any direct discrimination in such a ban.

“The internal rule of an undertaking prohibiting the visible wearing of religious, philosophical or spiritual signs does not constitute direct discrimination if it is applied to all workers in a general and undifferentiated way,” judges said.

The CJEU last year said that European Union companies could ban employees from wearing a headscarf under certain conditions, if they needed to do so to project an image of neutrality to customers.

Elsewhere in Europe, courts have also had to look into where and how headscarves can sometimes be banned at work. In Germany, headscarf bans for women at work have been contentious for years, mostly with regard to aspiring teachers at state schools and trainee judges.

France’s top court upheld in 2014 the dismissal of a Muslim day care worker for wearing a headscarf at a private crèche that demanded strict neutrality from employees. France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority, prohibited the wearing of Islamic headscarves in state schools in 2004.

Austria’s constitutional court has ruled that a law there banning girls aged up to 10 from wearing headscarves in schools was discriminatory.

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