EU court rules workplace headscarf ban legal
European companies can ban employees from wearing religious or political symbols including the Islamic headscarf, the EU's top court ruled on March 14 in a landmark case.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said it does not constitute "direct discrimination" if a firm has an internal rule banning the wearing of "any political, philosophical or religious sign."
The Luxembourg-based court was ruling on the case of a Muslim woman fired by the security company G4S in Belgium after she insisted on wearing a headscarf.
The wearing of religious symbols, and especially Islamic symbols such as the headscarf, has become a hot button issue with the rise of populist sentiment across Europe, with some countries such as Austria considering a complete ban on the full-face veil in public.
Manfred Weber, head of the centre-right European People's Party, the biggest in the European Parliament, welcomed the ruling.
"Important ruling by the European Court of Justice: employers have the right to ban the Islamic veil at work. European values must apply in public life," Weber said in a tweet.
The ECJ was ruling on a case dating to 2003 when Samira Achbita, a Muslim, was employed as a receptionist by G4S security services in Belgium.
At the time, the company had an "unwritten rule" that employees should not wear any political, religious or philosophical symbols at work, the ECJ said.
In 2006, Achbita told G4S she wanted to wear the Islamic headscarf at work but was told this would not be allowed.
Subsequently, the company introduced a formal ban. Achbita was dismissed and she went to court claiming discrimination.
The ECJ said European Union law does bar discrimination on religious grounds, but G4S...