EU: Companies can ban the Islamic headscarf at work under certain conditions

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Companies can ban their Muslim employees from wearing headscarves under certain conditions, the European Court of Justice has ruled today in two cases brought before it by Muslims in Germany, who were made available by their employers after they started wearing the headscarf. Islamic headscarf.

“The ban on wearing visible expressions of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image to clients or to prevent social strife,” the court said.

“However, this justification must meet a genuine need on the part of the employer and, by reconciling the rights with the interests at stake, national courts can take into account the specific context of their Member State and, in particular, more favorable national provisions for the protection of religious freedom “.

Both of the Muslims who had appealed – one providing special care services at a childcare center in Hamburg run by a charity and the other working as a cashier at the Mueller pharmacy chain – did not wear a headscarf when they started working, but decided to do so. years later after returning from parental leave.

Their respective employers told them that this was not allowed and at various times made them available, told them to go to work without wearing a headscarf or placed them in other positions, court documents show.

The issue of the hijab – the traditional headscarf worn by women around the head and shoulders – has provoked war in Europe for years and underscores the sharp divisions for the integration of Muslims.

In a 2017 ruling, an EU court in Luxembourg had already ruled that companies could prohibit their staff from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols under certain conditions. At the time, the decision sparked a backlash from religious groups.

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