European Court of Justice ruling regarding religious dress sparks debate
ECJ clarifies Anti-Discrimination Law with regards to Religious Dress in the Workplace
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that a workplace ban on wearing “any political, philosophical or religious sign” is not directly discriminatory.
The case, which has generated significant debate, was brought before Europe’s highest court after Samira Achbita, a receptionist for Belgian security firm G4S, was sacked for wearing a headscarf at work. Achbita alleged that she had been discriminated against on religious grounds.
Her employer’s amendment of an unwritten rule against religious dress at work to a contractual clause added after she began her employment was a key point in the case.
Announced by the ECJ on 14th March, the clarification of EU Anti-Discrimination Laws notes that such bans can be implemented by employers, if they are based on internal rules requiring employees to “dress neutrally”.
The rules must also stipulate that workers be free of any symbols or clothing indicative of religious or political affiliation. Should such a ban not be enforced universally, the ban would then become discriminatory and no longer legal.
In addition, if a ban was based upon the will of the customer, or if it fails to be enforced on certain affiliations, then it would be considered illegal. For example, such a ban in the UK would not be legal under EU law if employees were allowed to wear symbols such as the Remembrance Poppy, which can be classified as a political symbol under EU law.
Earlier this year both the Scottish and English national football teams faced disciplinary action from FIFA for wearing black armbands bearing the Remembrance Poppy. The ruling body classed it as a political symbol.
Amnesty International has spoken against the ruling, saying it “opened a backdoor to…prejudice”, whilst many have taken to social media attacking the ban for it’s potential to set a precedent, which could put further Muslim women out of work.
Others have an issue with the ruling as perceived sexism in trying to control what a woman wears.
Wearing headscarf does NOT affect how well you work. Wearing little clothing is NOT asking for rape. STOP policing what women wear. #ECJ
— Tahmeena Alam (@tahmeenaalam) March 14, 2017
However, the ban has won support in some quarters.
The potential for discrimination noted by Amnesty International will be put against the strict stipulations that such a ban must abide by in order to remain legal.