Recent case law | Religious symbols // The Islamic Veil in the workplace

Published on : 04/01/2018 04 January Jan 2018
As you may know, religious signs in the workplace is a hot topic in Europe, and especially in France, a country with its own particular form of secularism called laïcité.
In March 2017 there were two judgments of the CJEU on the wearing of the Islamic veil at work. In the first one, it was said that the customer's wish not to be served by someone wearing the veil could not justify its prohibition.
In the second one, it was said that if the employer has a policy regarding neutrality in the workplace, such a policy may justify the prohibition of the veil, provided that this prohibition is proportionate and legitimate for the workplace’s activity.
The French Supreme court, the Cour de cassation, has taken up these decisions.
In a ruling dated 22 November 2017,  the Cour de Cassation reiterates several points:  Thus, it considers that "company’s internal rules can not contain provisions providing for the rights of individuals and individual and collective freedoms restrictions that would not be justified by the nature of the task to be performed nor proportionate to the desired purpose".
What does this mean for employers?
Employers may restrict the wearing of the veil and of other religious, cultural, or philosophical symbols in the workplace by first implementing a neutrality clause in their company rule book.

Secondly, this restriction can only concern employees who are in contact with clients or the public.
If the employee refuses to work without wearing the religious, cultural, or philosophical symbol, the employer must first try to find another position for the employee within the company without visual contact with customers, rather than terminating the employee. 


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