Monday, July 18, 2016

Ban on headscarves and religious clothing is discrimination - EURACTIV

by Michaël Privot 
Originally published: July 15, 2016

Muslim women wearing headscarves are facing yet another hurdle on the path towards inclusion and employment in the European labour market, writes Michaël Privot.

Michaël Privot is the Director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR).

Recently, an advocate-general at the European Court of Justice issued an opinion backing a private sector workplace ban on headscarves, in relation to a case involving a Muslim woman who was fired by G4S in Belgium for wearing a headscarf.

According to this opinion, companies should be free to ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves at work if they have a general policy banning all religious and political symbols, which effectively prevents all Muslim women wearing the headscarf from working for them. Interestingly, another advocate-general of the European Court of Justice just issued an opinion on a similar court case in France (Bougnaoui v Micropole SA) and considers the dismissal as direct and unlawful discrimination.

These opinions are not binding and the rulings are due in the autumn. However, the opinion on the Belgian case already sets a worrying precedent in terms of protection against religious discrimination.