ECJ rules employee dismissal for wearing headscarf not direct discrimination

Discrimination | HR Solutions

The European Court of Justice has ruled that an employee dismissed for wearing a headscarf did not suffer direct discrimination.

The female Muslim employee had worked for G4S Secure Solutions. She continued to wear a headscarf despite a policy that staff should not wear any religious, political or philosophical symbols. Initially, an unwritten company rule,  that later became part of the employees’ code of conduct.

Claim for wrongful dismissal

On 12 June 2006, G4S dismissed the employee after she refused to remove her headscarf. She brought a claim for wrongful dismissal against her employers for direct discrimination, relating to her religion.

Her claim was rejected and she appealed to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Not direct discrimination

The ECJ concluded that the employer had not directly discriminated based on religion, because the ban formed part of a general company rule.

It added that the ban could be considered indirect discrimination, on the basis of religion, but found that such discrimination could be justified to enforce a company’s policy of religious and ideological impartiality.

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