LUXEMBOURG (Dispatches) - The European Union’s top court has ruled that employers may forbid the wearing of visible symbols of religious or political belief, such as headscarves.
But the Luxembourg-based tribunal said in its ruling on Thursday that courts in the bloc’s 27 member states should weigh up whether the ban corresponded to a “genuine need” on the part of the employer. They must also consider the rights and interests of the employee, including by taking into account national legislation on freedom of religion, it said.
“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,” the court said.
“However, that justification must correspond to a genuine need on the part of the employer and, in reconciling the rights and interests at issue, the national courts may 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 case was brought to court by two women in Germany who were suspended from their jobs after they started wearing hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion.