The European Court of Justice ruled today that companies will now be able to ban their employees for being able to wear the headscarf seen on Muslim women as a part of the recent prohibitions of various political and religious symbols.
This is the very first case in a series of cases over rights of Muslim women wearing the hijab in the workplace.
“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” said the court in a recent statement.
“However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination.”
The court, based in Luxembourg, found that this headscarf ban has a chance of being “indirect discrimination” considering it affects people observing particular religions or faiths, like Muslims, who will be put at certain disadvantages.
However indirect discrimination can be considered permissible as long as it’s “objectively justified by a legitimate aim”, similar to a company’s policy regarding neutrality.
A campaign backing these women stated that this law could exclude a lot of Muslim women from being able to join the workforce, and rabbis in Europe said that this ruling and the court worsened the rising hate crime numbers by their message of “faith communities are no longer welcome”.
The Conference of European Rabbis’ president, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, stated: “This decision sends a signal to all religious groups in Europe.”
Amnesty International has welcomed this ruling based on a French case that the “employers are not at liberty to pander to the prejudices of their clients” however also stated that bans on symbols of religious preferences will open “a backdoor to precisely such prejudice”.