Employers may prohibit their employees from wearing headscarves and other religious symbols, even if this has the practical effect of treating believers unequally. But then they must be able to prove that their clients want it, the European Court of Justice ruled. This is possible, for example, if parents ask their daycare manager not to wear a cross around their neck.
The Luxembourg court previously gave employers the opportunity to require their employees to wear neutral clothing. At least if this rule applies to all employees, and is not specifically intended, for example, to prevent Muslim women from wearing headscarves or Christians from making the sign of the cross. Then there is no direct distinction.
But in practice, this rule of neutrality can turn out that way, the court acknowledges. After all, this holds back employees who, on the basis of their faith or conviction, want to dress in a certain way more than others. However, this is also permissible, provided that customers clearly appreciate it or if colleagues can engage in an argument. Then the business owner has a real interest in it, and this is justified.
Employers are not allowed to distinguish between large religious signs that immediately catch the eye, such as a bonnet, headscarf, or turban, and smaller variants such as the humble cross necklace. This would be detrimental to people with a belief or belief that simply uses very clear symbols. The Court considers impartiality to be impartial.
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