EU companies can ban employees from wearing headscarf, court rules
By Busra Nur Cakmak
ANKARA (AA): EU’s top court has ruled that companies in the member states can ban employees from wearing a headscarf if they “need to present neutral image towards customers.”
The European Court of Justice (CJEU) on Thursday gave its verdict on two cases brought by Muslim women who were suspended from their jobs in Germany for wearing the headscarf.
“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,” said the court.
The court said “that justification must correspond to a genuine need on the part of the employer,” adding national courts could take into account the special conditions of member states “in particular, more favourable national provisions on the protection of freedom of religion.”
One of the Muslim women worked as a special needs carer at a childcare center in Hamburg run by a charitable association. The other was a cashier at the Müller drugstore chain.
At the time of starting their jobs, they were not wearing the hijab but decided to do so years later after coming back from parental leave.
Germany-based Turkish-Muslim association IGMG in a statement said the decision has deprived Muslim women of the opportunity to live and work in equal living conditions.
“As a basis for its decision, the court makes a limping comparison, which in practice only applies to Muslim women as the headscarf is an integral part of Muslim practice. Those who wear it — unlike a piece of jewelry — cannot take it off for reasons of their faith, so only they (Muslim women) are forced to make a decision over their faith or work. This is constitutionally not tenable,” Bekir Altas, the head of the IGMG, said in the statement.
“Populist and Islamophobic debates over Muslim women have contributed to this social climate. Judicial decisions have also undeniable share in the issue. An environment in which minorities cannot flourish freely for fear of oppression and exclusion is never compatible with a liberal democratic order,” Altas added.
In 2017, the CJEU had ruled that companies can ban employees from wearing headscarves and other visible religious symbols under certain conditions.
[Photo: Court of Justice of the European Union based in Luxembourg. Creative Commons]
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