European companies can ban employees from wearing religious or political symbols including the Islamic headscarf, the EU’s top court ruled on Tuesday in a landmark case.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said it does not constitute “direct discrimination” if a firm has an internal rule banning the wearing of “any political, philosophical or religious sign”.
The Luxembourg-based court was ruling on the case of a Muslim woman fired by the security company G4S in Belgium after she insisted on wearing a headscarf.
The wearing of religious symbols, and especially Islamic symbols such as the headscarf, has become a hot button issue with the rise of populist sentiment across Europe, with some countries such as Austria considering a complete ban on the full-face veil in public.
Manfred Weber, head of the centre-right European People’s Party, the biggest in the European Parliament, welcomed the ruling.
“Important ruling by the European Court of Justice: employers have the right to ban the Islamic veil at work. European values must apply in public life,” Weber said in a tweet.
The ECJ was ruling on a case dating to 2003 when Samira Achbita, a Muslim, was employed as a receptionist by G4S security services in Belgium.
At the time, the company had an “unwritten rule” that employees should not wear any political, religious or philosophical symbols at work, the ECJ said.
In 2006, Achbita told G4S she wanted to wear the Islamic headscarf at work but was told this would not be allowed.
Subsequently, the company introduced a formal ban. Achbita was dismissed and she went to court claiming discrimination.
The ECJ said European Union law does bar discrimination on religious grounds, but G4S’s actions were based on treating all employees the same, meaning no one person was singled out for application of the ban.
“The rule thus treats all employees of the undertaking in the same way, notably by requiring them, generally and without any differentiation, to dress neutrally,” the ECJ said.
“Accordingly, such an internal rule does not introduce a difference of treatment that is directly based on religion or belief,” it said.
However, in a related case in France, the ECJ ruled that a customer could not demand that a company employee not wear the Islamic headscarf when conducting business with them on its behalf.
Design engineer Asma Bougnaoui was employed full-time by Micropole, a private company, in 2008, having been told that wearing the headscarf might cause problems with clients.
Following a customer complaint, Micropole asked Bougnaoui not to wear the headscarf on the grounds employees should be dressed neutrally.
She was subsequently dismissed and went to court claiming discrimination.
The ECJ said the case turned on whether there was an internal company rule in place applicable to all, as in the G4S instance, or whether the client’s demand meant Bougnaoui was treated differently.
The ECJ concluded that Bougnaoui had indeed been treated differently and so the client’s demand that she not wear a headscarf “cannot be considered a genuine and determining occupational requirement”.
Ghana: video of police assault on nursing mother goes viral
Ghana’s social media space – Facebook and Twitter – has been buzzing with a call for the arrest of a police officer for assaulting a nursing mother.
A viral video shows the said officer in what starts like a tussle with the woman in a banking hall. Subsequently, he is seen hitting the woman with an umbrella, punching and slapping her on the face.
Reports indicated that the woman, a client of the savings and loans company, where the incident occured had arrived when the company had closed.
She ostensibly got in despite the close of business and refused to leave till she could withdraw a sum of 250 cedis ($50). Social media users are calling for the immediate arrest of the police officer.
Local media portals also report that the police heirachy has confirmed that a probe had been opened into the alleged incident and that due process was going to be pursued.
The video continues to be widely shared on Facebook with some prominent media personalities joining the calls for justice for the woman.
This is the video! This woman’s family and husband needs to track this barbaric being down! @GhPoliceService after shooting, now this? When will we see action? When will u stop this bureaucratic gimmick and take action against irresponsible officers disgracing the uniform? When? pic.twitter.com/9Fmkys80BI
— Bridge-it O2 (@Bridget_Otoo) July 20, 2018
Trump extends Somali immigrants’ stay in US
Somalis living in the United States under protected status have been given permission by the Trump administration to remain in the country for at least another 18 months, because of ongoing violence in the North African nation.
At least 500 Somalis in the United States with Temporary Protected Status will be able to re-register for an extension of their status through March 17, 2020, according to a Thursday statement from the Department of Homeland Security. The status grants beneficiaries the ability to legally work while they are in the United States.
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