ECJ – employers can ban employees from wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious belief in the workplace if an internal neutrality policy is present

An employer can ban employees from wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious belief in the workplace – for example an Islamic headscarf – if it has an internal neutrality policy: the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice has confirmed that such ban does not breach EU discrimination law because the discrimination is justified (Article 2(1) and (2)(a) of Directive 2000/78) in joined cases C-804/18 & C-341/19, WABE & MH Müller Handel.

 

Therefore, the Court decided as a principle to be applied in the EU that a prohibition on wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes. However, it added that justification must correspond to a genuine need from the employer, and national courts may take into account the specific context of their Member State when reconciling rights and interests at issue.

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