On Thursday, July 15 2021, the European Union’s top court passed a ruling which allows companies can ban Muslim employees from wearing a headscarf under certain conditions.
However, the Luxembourg-based tribunal said in its ruling that courts in the bloc’s 27 member states should weigh whether the ban corresponded to a “genuine need” on the part of the employer. And they must also consider the rights and interests of the employee, including by taking into account national legislation on freedom of religion, it said.
According to a report by Reuters, the court 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,”
“However, that justification must correspond to a genuine need on the part of the employer and, in reconciling the rights and interests at issue, the national courts may take into account the specific context of their Member State and, in particular, more favourable national provisions on the protection of freedom of religion.”
This happened when two women in Germany were suspended from their jobs when they started wearing Islamic garments. Therefore, this case was passed to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Both these Muslim women had not been wearing headscarves when they started in their jobs, but after a parental leave started wearing the garment.
The Associated Press (AP) reported that the other employers told them it was not allowed and they were told to either be suspended, to come to work without it or assigned a different job, court documents show.
Both the company and the women filed legal complaints before German courts, which in turn referred questions to the EU tribunal.
The woman works as a special needs caretaker at a child care centre in Hamburg run by a charitable association and a cashier at the Mueller drugstore chain.
This kind of issue regarding Hijab has caused controversy across Europe for years which rules over integrating Muslims.
In a 2017 ruling, the EU court in Luxembourg had already said that companies may ban staff from wearing headscarves.
Headscarf bans for women at work have been the most talk topic in Germany for years, mostly about aspiring teachers at state schools and trainee judges.
But this has not so far been the major theme in the campaign for this year’s legislative elections.
Earlier in July, the French government faced criticism for targeting Muslim women in the country, dividing parliamentarians, over the ban of the face veil as part of a controversial.
“I don’t understand why we target women with headscarves (in France) and not other things,” lawmaker Annie Chapelier told parliament.
She said after the Democratic Movement (MoDem), an ally of President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche (LREM) party, put forward to add an article “banning ballot box attendants from wearing religious symbols” to the law.
However, Annie Chapelle said “Before headscarved women intervened at the ballot boxes, men wearing kippah were not told anything,”
She added, that being a poll worker should be equally open for everyone just like citizenship. “Don’t make fake excuses to target and accuse women with headscarves that you don’t want to accept.”