According to a decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), it is possible for the headscarf ban in public administrations to be legal under certain conditions. Judges at Europe’s highest court said Tuesday in Luxembourg that it is not discrimination as long as such bans on religious signs apply generally and indiscriminately to all administrative staff and are limited to what is strictly necessary.
There is a case from Belgium in the background. An office manager in the municipality of Ans was not allowed to wear a headscarf at work. The municipality changed its labor regulations and required strict neutrality: wearing obvious signs indicating ideological or religious affiliation was therefore prohibited for all employees – even those with no party affiliation, like the plaintiff. He felt his religious freedom had been violated and sued the authorities.
Judges have now ruled that such strict rules may be lawful in order to create a completely neutral environment. Therefore, EU states have leeway in how they want to design the impartiality of the public service. However, measures must be limited to those that are absolutely necessary. National courts must decide whether this is the case.
The European Court of Justice has ruled several times in recent years that companies can ban the wearing of religious symbols in the workplace.