New EU “Headscarf Ban” Ruling May Have Broad Implications for European Employers

On July 15, 2021, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the supreme court of the European Union, ruled that employers may prohibit the wearing of visible expressions of religious beliefs, including headscarves, in the workplace.

More specifically, the tribunal stated that “A prohibition on wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes.” However, the court limited the scope of an employer’s discretion in these matters, noting that the “justification must correspond to a genuine need on the part of the employer.” The implementation of the ECJ’s ruling is unlikely to be uniform across all EU Member States, as the ECJ allowed “national courts [to] take into account the specific context of their Member State and, in particular, more favorable national provisions on the protection of freedom of religion.”
The press release announcing the ECJ’s ruling can be found here: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2021-07/cp210128en.pdf
Coverage of and additional context for the ruling can be found here:
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