Employers can ban headscarves, Europe’s top court rules

Europe’s top court has ruled that employers can ban staff from wearing a headscarf.

The European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday on a case concerning two Muslim women who were fired for refusing to remove their headscarves.

According to CNN, the court said companies should be able to ban the wearing of any visible political, philosophical or religious signs. A ban on headscarves did not constitute direct discrimination, as long as a general ban on other symbols was in place, it said.

The case was heard by the grand chamber of 15 judges at the court in Luxembourg. It ruled that companies may have a legitimate right to want to appear neutral in front of their customers, and could therefore ask their staff to dress neutrally.

Headscarves could not be banned, however, in response to a request from a customer, it added.

In the first case of its kind, the court touched on an issue that has become a flashpoint across Europe. Debates about Muslim immigration and integration have dominated election campaigns in France and the Netherlands.

The Muslim women — a receptionist working at security firm G4S in Belgium and a consultant at Micropole in France — had taken their cases to national courts, who then referred the matter to the ECJ.

CCIF, a French organization that campaigns against Islamophobia, said the court’s decision “condemns Muslim women to an economical and social death.”

“This decision is not based on a logic of promoting fundamental rights, but rather on the tensions running through certain parts of European societies,” it said in a statement.