ECJ: ban on headscarves in nurseries and drugstores is legal | free press


Isn’t a Muslim woman allowed to stand at the cash register of a drugstore or work in a daycare center with a headscarf? The Court of Justice has now issued a long-awaited ruling on this matter.

Luxembourg (dpa) – The European Court of Justice has strengthened the rights of employers who prohibit Muslim employees from wearing a headscarf.

The ban on wearing any visible expression of political, ideological or religious beliefs may be justified by an employer’s need to convey a neutral image to customers or to avoid social conflict, the Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.

The background was two German cases

The ruling was based on two cases from Germany. On the one hand, a Muslim employee of a non-denominational daycare center had been warned several times because she had come to work wearing a headscarf. Negotiations then took place before the Hamburg Labor Court as to whether the entries should be removed from the personnel file. The court then asked the Court for an interpretation of EU law.

The Federal Labor Court took a similar approach in 2019 with the case of a Muslim woman from the Nuremberg region who sued the drugstore chain Müller over a headscarf ban. Where the employee saw her religious freedom as limited, the drugstore chain referred to entrepreneurial freedom.

Similar statement in 2017

As early as 2017, the ECJ ruled in a similar case that a general internal ban on political or religious symbols in the workplace does not constitute direct discrimination. Employers’ desire to convey an image of neutrality to their customers is legitimate and part of entrepreneurial freedom, the judges said.

The final decision in the specific case of the crèche worker and drugstore worker must now be made by the competent German courts. The ECJ emphasized on Thursday that they do have leeway. In this way, national courts could take into account the context of their respective Member States when balancing the rights and interests involved. This is especially the case if there are more favorable national regulations regarding the protection of religious freedom.