DOING BUSINESS IN EUROPE


Doing business in the EU

The European Court of Justice decide on two cases of employees that were dismissed for wearing an Islamic headscarf

EU Labour Law Cases

Both cases concern Muslim women employees who work(ed) in private companies.

In the first case, Ms Achbita worked already for three years for the Belgian branch of G4S before she decided to wear an Islamic headscarf, as a consequence of which she was dismissed. G4S argued that this was not in accordance with their company neutrality policy, which they introduced only after Ms Achbita made clear that she wanted to wear a headscarf. In the second case, Ms Bougnaoui was already wearing a headscarf at the time she was hired as an engineer by the French company “Micropole”.  After complaints of customers, however, she was asked to remove her headscarf which she refused and as a consequence faced dismissal as well.

In the second case, Ms Bougnaoui was already wearing a headscarf at the time she was hired as an engineer by the French company “Micropole”.  After complaints of customers, however, she was asked to remove her headscarf which she refused and as a consequence faced dismissal as well.

In the case of Ms Bougnaoui, the European Court of Justice finds a direct discrimination on the ground of religion, since the employer’s decision was not based on a general neutrality policy of the company. The customers’ wish not “to have the services be provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf could not be considered as a ‘genuine and determining occupational requirement’.

In the case of Ms Achbita, however, the Court finds no discrimination. It considers it legitimate to dismiss an employee when a company has a policy of political, religious and philosophical neutrality in relation with both public and private sector customers.

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Andre Beukes LLM

Andre Beukes LLM

André Beukes is an EU Management Consultant to international companies doing business in Europe. He provides clients with practical business support that makes a real difference doing business in the EU. “Put simply, I am here to help you meet your challenges. I believe in the importance of doing things correctly, meaning risks are reduced and problems are avoided.”

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