In an EU court ruling this week, companies in the European Union will be allowed to ban employees wearing a hijab under certain conditions.
The traditional headscarf that’s worn around the head and shoulders has been a divisive topic in Europe for a number of years.
In this latest ruling, the court decided that if companies need to project a neutral image to their customers, they can ban the item, which has provoked concerns over integrating Muslims.
The case was brought to the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (CJEU) by two Muslim women who were suspended from their jobs for wearing a hijab to work.
One employee was a special needs carer in a charity-run childcare center in Hamburg; the other was a cashier in a drugstore in Mueller.
Both women didn’t wear headscarves when initially starting their jobs. However, they decided to do so after returning from parental leave several years later.
According to the court documents, their employers told them that the hijab wasn’t allowed in the workplace and was suspended, before being told to remove it if they wanted to return to work.
The court then weighed up whether this issue was a violation of freedom of religion, or whether freedom of conduct for businesses should take priority.
In the final ruling, the court decided that if an employer needs to present an image of neutrality to its customers, bans on religious clothing in the workplace could be justified.
It was also noted that there must be a genuine need for the employer to implement these types of bans. For example, in the case of the childcare center employee, the employer had applied these rules to workers of other religions too – one was required to remove a religious cross.
The court said, “A prohibition on wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes.”
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