Companies Can Ban Hijab From Workplace, EU’s Top Court Says

Two Muslim women in Germany brought their respective discrimination cases to the court to determine whether such a ban was allowed in the workplace.


Image via Getty/Horst Galuschka/picture alliance


The European Union’s top court said on Thursday that companies are permitted to ban the wearing of the hijab in the workplace under specific conditions.

The move, which comes four years after a previous ruling in which the EU’s highest court said such a ban could exist as part of a general policy against religious symbols, arrived in the form of a ruling on Thursday on two cases that were brought by two Muslim women in Germany.

Both women, per a Reuters report from Sabine Siebold and Ingrid Melander, had faced retaliatory measures at their places of employment after wearing headscarves. The court was tasked with deciding whether the bans at each respective place of employment marked a violation of religious freedoms or were enforceable due to an argued need for “neutrality” in each company’s public mage.

In these recent cases, one of the women was a special needs caregiver who worked for a charity group, while the other was a drugstore cashier. On Thursday, the court said a workplace prohibition on “any visible form” of expressions of the political, philosophical, or religious variety could be justified if the employer had a reason to present a “neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes.”  

For both of these cases, reports noted on Thursday, the last call with regards to discrimination will now fall on national courts.

Similar acts of discrimination have also persisted here in the States, including in airports. In June of this year, for example, a Muslim woman said a Southwest Airlines flight attendant told her she couldn’t sit in her emergency exit row seat because she “couldn’t speak English and would bring the whole plane down in an emergency.” Prior to making that remark, the flight attendant and the woman had a conversation in English.

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