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EU Court ruling on headscarf bans

From the German edition of The Local

The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that employers may ban headscarves in the workplace in certain circumstances - an issue which has been heatedly debated in Germany in recent years.

The European Court of Justice ruling on Tuesday was based on two cases in France and Belgium of Muslim women who wanted to wear their headscarves to work. The main question was how to interpret anti-discrimination and equal treatment policies of the EU.

The court said that employers may ban headscarves if the company has a general ban on "political, philosophical or religious" symbols, and if there is good reason for a ban.

The decision also clarified under what conditions a ban would be allowed. For the woman in Belgium, who worked as a receptionist at a security firm, the court said her case did not constitute “direct discrimination” as the company had a general rule against displaying religious symbols.

But for the woman in France, the court said a ban was not justified. The design engineer was fired after a company client complained about her headscarf. The court said that this situation “cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination."

German courts must now comply with this ruling.

Various Muslim and anti-discrimination groups have expressed their disappointment with the ruling.

"The European Court of Justice's ruling is, at its core, a departure from established civil rights," said the Central Council of Muslims in Germany in a statement.

The Central Council of Muslims further noted that the decision could "open the door for Muslim women in Europe to be further subjected to discrimination and their complaints to be limited by law".

Leader of the German government's Anti-Discrimination Agency, Christine Lüders, also said that the decision could make it more difficult for Muslim women to find a job.