Two German firms were fine to ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves, the EU court has said.
“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,” the court said in a ruling on 15 July, EUobserver reports.
A “neutral image” was a “legitimate aim”, it noted, even if it caused “particular inconvenience for such workers”, the tribunal said. It was even more legitimate if “in the absence of such a policy of neutrality, [a company’s] freedom to conduct a business would be undermined,” it added. But company policy must be applied “without distinction” to one faith or another and “treat all workers of the undertaking in the same way”, the EU court said. The fact one of the German firms also “required an employee wearing a religious [Christian] cross to remove that sign” was a good indication, it noted.
The case arose when German courts queried EU law after two German firms disciplined Muslim members of staff for insisting on wearing their headscarves. WABE, which runs daycare centres in the city of Hamburg, officially warned and temporarily suspended a woman named as IX from her duties. Müller Handels, a pharmacy chain in Nuremberg, first transferred to another post then sent home a woman named as MJ.
Meanwhile, several EU states, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, and Luxembourg, have put in place restrictions of one form or another on Islamic veils in public life, EUobserver remarks.