Employers banning religious symbols at work does not constitute discrimination – POLITICO

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on Thursday that an employer’s internal legislation prohibiting the visible wearing of any religious, philosophical or spiritual sign at work does not constitute direct discrimination.

The substance of the decision was an ongoing dispute since 2018 in Belgian courts between a Muslim woman and SCRL, a company that manages social housing.

The woman indicated during a job interview that she would not remove her Islamic headscarf during work in order to comply with the company’s policy of neutrality promoted in the terms of employment.

The tribunal ruled that these terms of employment do not breach EU employment equal treatment laws which prohibit discrimination « on the basis of religion or belief » – and « do not constitute direct discrimination if applied to all workers in a general and undifferentiated manner ». way. »

It held that “religion or belief” constituted a single ground of discrimination, covering both religious beliefs and philosophical or spiritual beliefs.

Since any person may have a religious, philosophical or spiritual belief which he or she cannot manifest through dress under such conditions of employment, such conditions do not constitute direct discrimination of an individual « on the basis of his religion or beliefs ».

However, the tribunal limited its decision by stating that such a seemingly neutral rule could well lead to indirect discrimination based on religion and belief when applied. It is up to the other courts to decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on the decision.

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