But the Luxembourg court said in its ruling on Thursday that the courts of the bloc’s 27 member states would have to assess whether the ban corresponded to a “real need” on the part of the employer. They must also take into account the rights and interests of the employee, including taking into account national legislation on freedom of religion, he said.
“A ban 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 clients or to prevent social conflicts”, declared the court.
“However, this justification must correspond to a real need of the employer and, by reconciling the rights and interests in question, the national courts can take into account the specific context of their Member State and, in particular, of a more favorable national law . provisions relating to the protection of freedom of religion.
Suspended from work
The case has been taken to court by two women in Germany who were suspended from their jobs after starting to wear the hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who believe it is part of their religion.
The two Muslim women – a childminder at a Hamburg daycare center run by a charity and a cashier at the Mueller drugstore chain – did not wear a headscarf when they started their work, but decided to do so for years. late after their arrival. returning from parental leave.
Their respective employer told them it was not allowed and, at different times, they were either suspended or asked to work without it, or assigned to other work, according to court documents.
The EU’s highest court today again confirmed the right of employers to fire Muslim women from their jobs for wearing the headscarf if this is justified by the notion of “neutrality”. The ECJ also seems to admit that this is a form of discrimination 🤷♀️ pic.twitter.com/mMwYdJoHwr
– Mehreen (@MehreenKhn) July 15, 2021
The hijab issue has sparked controversy across Europe for years and highlighted strong divisions over the integration of Muslims.
In a 2017 ruling, the European Union court in Luxembourg had previously said that companies could prohibit staff from wearing headscarves and other visible religious symbols under certain conditions. At the time, this sparked a huge backlash among faith groups.
Over five million Muslims live in Germany, making it the largest minority religious group.
The ban on headscarves for working women has been a hotly debated issue in Germany for years, mainly with regard to future teachers in public schools and trainee judges. This has so far not been a major theme in the campaign for this year’s parliamentary elections.
Elsewhere in Europe, courts have also had to consider where and how the headscarf can sometimes be banned at work.
The highest French court confirmed in 2014 the dismissal of a Muslim educator for wearing a headscarf in a private nursery which demanded strict neutrality on the part of the employees. France, home to the largest Muslim minority in Europe, banned the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in public schools in 2004.
However, the Austrian Constitutional Court ruled that a law prohibiting girls up to 10 years of age from wearing headscarves in schools was discriminatory.