Tuesday 19 September 2017

Employers can ban hijab headscarves in work: EU

People look at a market stall selling the hijab in east London. Photo: Reuters
People look at a market stall selling the hijab in east London. Photo: Reuters

Lizzie Dearden in London

The European Court of Justice has ruled that companies can ban employees from wearing the Islamic headscarf, but only as part of prohibitions including other religious and political symbols.

It is the first case of its kind amid a series of legal disputes over the right for Muslim women to wear the hijab at work.

"An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination," the court said in a statement.

"However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer's services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination."

The Luxembourg-based court found that a headscarf ban may also constitute "indirect discrimination" if people adhering to a particular religion or belief, such as Muslims, are put at a particular disadvantage.

But indirect discrimination is permissible if it is "objectively justified by a legitimate aim", such as a company's policy of neutrality, provided that the means of achieving it are appropriate and necessary.

But a campaign group backing the women said it could shut many Muslim women out of the workforce and European rabbis said the court had worsened rising hate crime by sending a message that "faith communities are no longer welcome".

Independent News Service

Editors Choice

Also in World News