2 weeks ago
The Muslim Veil and Religious Discrimination
An opinion by the Advocate General issued this week has left the law in Europe in a state of disarray regarding the Muslim headscarf (Hijab) and religious discrimination.
There have been numerous high profile cases on the subject of religious discrimination of which the Sun readers amongst you will already be aware.
In this case from France, a Muslim employee who wore the hijab had a complaint from a client who said it should not be worn again when they met. The hijab covered her head, not her face. The employer asked her not to wear it when visiting clients, and she was dismissed when she refused.
The French Tribunal, and Appeal Tribunal felt that the dismissal was not discrimination as removing the hijab was a genuine occupational requirement. The Advocate General in the EU Court of Justice has disagreed. His reasoning was it was not a genuine occupational requirement. The example given by the EU Court of Justice of a genuine occupational requirement was the need to wear a hard hat in construction meaning a Sikh might have to remove his turban (although note that under UK law there is a specific exemption meaning a Sikh wearing a turban does not have to wear a hard hat).
The opposite view was taken in a similar case this year. The conflicting views are both from the Advocate General. (See Achbita v G4S Secure Solutions NV (2016).
The European Court usually follows the Advocate general’s opinion but is not bound to do so. This is just as well as the Court will have to disagree with one of the opinions. We will update you when it does.
The full case can be read at the following link: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=181584&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=334888