Islam: EU court, Islamic veil can be banned in workplace

A top EU court has ruled employers can ban workers from wearing an Islamic headscarf

"What a business can not do is make up the rules in retrospect to try and justify its position".

However they found that Bougnaoui had suffered discrimination and that a customers' objections did not warrant a legitimate cause for dismissing her.

Users pointed out that the ruling would disproportionately affect Muslim women.

Rights groups have attacked the European Court of Justice after it ruled employers can ban religious symbols, including headscarves, at work.

The court said that an employer's readiness to take into account the wishes of a customer, not internal policy, don't qualify for the measure set out by the European Union: a "genuine and determining occupational requirement".

Another woman, Asma Bougnaoui, was dismissed from a French company Micropole, in 2008, after she also wore the headscarf to work.

While the move, which a French court ruled was unconstitutional, was opposed by many Europeans who believed it violated personal and religious freedoms, it was supported by many others who regarded the burkini and other clothing favoured by Muslims as a political statement.


In 2013, four Christian British Airways employees won a legal case in the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled their employer engaged in illegal discrimination for telling them they could not wear their crosses. The business had an internal neutrality policy, by which employees were asked not to wear any outward sign of their religious, philosophical or political beliefs.

Meanwhile, Bishop of Leeds Rt Revd Nicholas Baines said while the ECJ decision must be studied to establish its implications, "there is clearly more work to be done in relation to religious literacy".

Judges ruled on a 2006 from Belgium in which a woman at the security company G4S was sacked for wearing a headscarf at work for religious reasons, and another from France involving an engineer fired after customer complaints.

It clarifies a long-standing question about whether bans by some countries on religious symbols, in classrooms, for example, can be extended to the workplace.

However the ruling has been criticised by Amnesty International, who claim that it is "disappointing" and opens a backdoor to prejudice.

"The employer", she said, "has a role (and) needs to filter discriminatory requests".

Prohibiting wearing a headscarf, under such circumstances where the rule was applied in a "consistent and systematic manner" did not "constitute direct discrimination based on religion or belief", it concluded. However, both cases differ slightly.

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