Employers may bar staff from wearing visible religious symbols, the European Union's top court ruled on Tuesday (March 14) in its first decision on the issue of women wearing Islamic headscarves at work. Mia Womersley reports.
Private employers can ban staff from wearing Islamic headscarves. That's the decision from the European Union's highest court on Tuesday (March 14). Under certain conditions, employees can be forbidden from wearing visible religious symbols. This is the first ruling on what has become a major political issue across Europe. The European Court of Justice looked at two cases. In the first, a Belgian firm had a rule barring employees who dealt with customers from wearing visible religious and political symbols to project a public image of neutrality. The court ruled the company is not guilty of discrimination if it meets certain other conditions. Meanwhile a French business dismissed a software engineer for refusing to remove her headscarf. The ECJ says it may have breached EU anti-discrimination laws on religious grounds if it did so not because of a general internal rule but just because a client objected. The ruling disappointing for the Open Society Justice Initiative. It said the result 'weakens the guarantee of equality at the heart of the EU's anti-discriminatory directive'. The judgment comes on the eve of a Dutch election in which Muslim immigration has been a key issue. France also due to vote for a new president next month. There too, the far-right anti-immigration Front National is riding high in opinion polls.