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To Prohibit the Use of the Islamic Headscarf or Christian Crucifix in the Workplace Constitutes Discrimination?

posted 3 years ago

The question is whether an internal rule of a private undertaking prohibiting the wearing of any visible sign of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace constitutes direct discrimination.

The Court of Justice of the European Union returns to the topic (Judgment 15 July 2021).

The Court reminds that such a rule does not constitute discrimination of that sort provided that it covers any manifestation of such beliefs without distinction and treats all workers of the undertaking in the same way by requiring them, in a general and undifferentiated way, inter alia, to dress neutrally, which precludes the wearing of such signs.

A rule of this kind, provided it is applied in a general and indiscriminate manner, does not establish a difference in treatment.

The mere desire of an employer to pursue a policy of neutrality – while in itself a legitimate aim – is not sufficient, as such, to justify objectively a difference of treatment indirectly based on religion or belief, since such a justification can be regarded as being objective only where there is a genuine need on the part of that employer, which it is for that employer to demonstrate.

In the case in question, therefore, the dismissal of a nursery employee who had refused to remove the Islamic veil seemed legitimate.

The structure had imposed an internal regulation based on the principle of neutrality.

It should be noted that the employer had, for the same reasons, prohibited the christian crucifix to another employee.

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