EU court: Employers can ban veils in the workplace

Published 30 November 2023
- By Editorial Staff

Employers can now prohibit employees from wearing religious symbols, the EU’s highest court has determined. The court believes that “strict neutrality” can be “objectively justified”.

In the Belgian municipality of Ans, the employment conditions were changed, where employees were to observe strict neutrality by not wearing visible signs of religious or ideological belief. This happened after the municipality asked a female employee not to wear her Islamic veil. The woman then initiated legal proceedings against the company, claiming that her right to freedom of religion had been violated.

The EU Court of Justice ruled in the case that public authorities in member countries should have the right to prohibit their employees from wearing religious symbols, Reuters reports.

The court emphasizes that a policy of strict neutrality, aimed at maintaining a neutral environment within public administration, can be considered objectively justified and motivated by a legitimate purpose.

Furthermore, the court emphasizes that the authorities of member states have a certain degree of freedom in defining and promoting neutrality in public service. To achieve this goal, however, a consistent and systematic strategy is required, and all measures taken must be strictly limited to the absolutely necessary, according to the court’s statement.

The use of religious symbols, especially wearing a veil, has been controversial. In Denmark, a law was passed in 2018 prohibiting the wearing of full Muslim veils, namely the burqa and niqab, in public places. In France, religious symbols in state schools have been prohibited since 2004 and 2007 also forbidden in the public sector. Since 2011, it is also not allowed to wear a full veil in public places.

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