With most of the East Coast layered under a thick coat of snow and sleet today, we bring you news from across the pond: the BBC is reporting Europe’s high court has ruled that bans on wearing religious headscarves in the workplace are not necessarily a form of discrimination.
According to the report, workplace bans on the wearing of “any political, philosophical or religious sign” such as the Muslim practice of hijab need not constitute direct discrimination, European Court of Justice has ruled.
But the ban must be based on internal company rules requiring all employees to “dress neutrally” and cannot be based on the wishes of a customer, the court ruled.
This is the court’s first ruling on the wearing of headscarves at work, and it was prompted by the case of a receptionist fired for wearing a headscarf to work at a Belgium-based security firm.
Rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday’s ECJ rulings were “disappointing” and “opened a backdoor to . . . prejudice.”
Meanwhile, the Conference of Rabbis expressed worry about the ruling: “With the rise of racially motivated incidents and today’s decision, Europe is sending a clear message; its faith communities are no longer welcome.”
While the court’s ruling likely comes as a blow to religious freedom advocates as well as working Muslim women in Europe, it is unlikely to alter any American policy, which largely aligns with the ECJ ruling regarding “neutral” rules in the workplace.
This fact sheet from the American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, highlights some of the challenges hijab-practicing Muslim women face in the modern American workplace.