Europe’s Highest Court Rules Ban on Islamic Headscarf In the Workplace Is Legal

Europe’s highest court ruled Tuesday that employers are allowed to ban workers from wearing visible political or religious symbols including Islamic headscarves.

In its first direct judgment on the topic, the European Court of Justice said a workplace rule prohibiting any such item “does not constitute direct discrimination” if applied universally.

The decision, which applies to all 28 countries in the bloc, came in in two cases including one brought by a Muslim receptionist in Belgium employed by contracting giant G4S.

The Islamic headscarf has been at the center of controversy in a number of European countries, most notably France which attaches particular importance to the separation of religion and government services such as schools.

The judges said a workplace ban on visible symbols would not be discriminatory if it covered “any manifestation of beliefs without distinction.”

There is a risk of indirect discrimination if certain groups were unfairly impacted, but this could be justified if the rule was “appropriate and necessary,” the judges notes.

The ruling came on the eve of an election in the Netherlands which has seen fierce debate over the impact of immigration and the rise of visible religious clothes.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Alastair Jamieson