Achbita v G4S Secure Solutions Case C-157/15

Preliminary ruling at the CJEU in relation to whether banning headscarves amounts to discrimination. The court ruled that this rule did not amount to direct discrimination but may constitute indirect discrimination.

The Claimant had been working for G4S from 2003. There was at that time an unwritten rule within G4S that workers could not wear visible signs of their political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace. The Claimant was dismissed in 2006 on account of her continuing insistence that she wished, as a Muslim, to wear the Islamic headscarf at work. Her claim of direct discrimination was dismissed by the Belgium court, saying that:

"...it was common ground that [the Claimant] was dismissed not because of her Muslim faith but because she persisted in wishing to manifest that faith, visibly, during working hours, by wearing an Islamic headscarf. The provision of the workplace regulations infringed by [the Claimant] was of general scope in that it prohibited all workers from wearing visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace. There was nothing to suggest that G4S had taken a more conciliatory approach towards any other employee in a comparable situation, in particular as regards a worker with different religious or philosophical beliefs who consistently refused to comply with the ban."

The Claimant appealed. Proceedings were stayed and the following question was referred to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

'Should Article 2(2)(a) of Directive 2000/78 be interpreted as meaning that the prohibition on wearing, as a female Muslim, a headscarf at the workplace does not constitute direct discrimination where the employer's rule prohibits all employees from wearing outward signs of political, philosophical and religious beliefs at the workplace?'

The court ruled that Article 2(2)(a) of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation must be interpreted as meaning that the prohibition on wearing an Islamic headscarf, which arises from an internal rule of a private undertaking prohibiting the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign in the workplace, does not constitute direct discrimination based on religion or belief within the meaning of that directive.

By contrast, such an internal rule of a private undertaking may constitute indirect discrimination within the meaning of Article 2(2)(b) of Directive 2000/78 if it is established that the apparently neutral obligation it imposes results, in fact, in persons adhering to a particular religion or belief being put at a particular disadvantage, unless it is objectively justified by a legitimate aim, such as the pursuit by the employer, in its relations with its customers, of a policy of political, philosophical and religious neutrality, and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary, which it is for the referring court to ascertain.

Read the full text of the judgment here

Published: 14/03/2017 13:40

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