European Court of Justice: Islamic veil could be banned in the work place if “objectively justified”
According to two rulings by the European Court of Justice on Tuesday 14 March, banning islamic headscarves could happen, under certain circumstances.
According to the Judge’s ruling, “an internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination.”
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, if an internal rule is absent.
The decision comes after the Court of Cassation, Belgium, has queried the interpretation of the EU directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation expressed the wish to know whether the prohibition on wearing an Islamic headscarf, which arises from a general internal rule of a private undertaking, constitutes direct discrimination.
The Court concluded that the prohibition on wearing an Islamic headscarf, which arises from an internal rule of a private undertaking prohibiting the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign in the workplace, does not constitute direct discrimination based on religion or belief within the meaning of the directive.
What the Court of Justice has found is that G4S security company’s internal rule referred to the wearing of visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs and therefore covers any manifestation of such beliefs without distinction. According to the Court of Justice, the rule does not treat employees under differentiation by requiring them to dress neutrally.
The Court concludes that it is also necessary to ascertain whether the prohibition covers only G4S workers who interact with customers. If that is the case, the prohibition must be considered strictly necessary for the purpose of achieving the aim pursued. Under this context, it is only in very limited circumstances that a characteristic such an islamic veil may constitute a genuine and determining occupational requirement and after Tuesday’s ruling.
On the last part, the Court of Justice further elaborates that the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the services of that employer provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered a genuine and determining occupational requirement within the meaning of the directive.