A Muslim woman sued her former employer for firing her after allegedly banning her from wearing a hijab at work.
Samira Achbita filed a lawsuit after she refused to go to her receptionist job without her headscarf. The company, security firm G4S, fired Achbita when she failed to show up for work — with the lawsuit being filed soon after.
Judges ultimately ruled against the woman on two separate occasions.
According to a jurist working on the case, companies are justified in banning Muslim employees from wearing a hijab to work if the ban enforces “a legitimate policy of religious and ideological neutrality pursued by the employer,” EU Observer reported.
The ban, German advocate general Juliane Kokott, with the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg, should be based on “a general company rule” regarding religious symbols of any kind in order for it to be upheld. While Kokott’s opinion is not binding, it is an indication of what the final “clarification” from the court will say.
Kokott said the company’s policy on religious symbols was the right thing to do “because of the special nature of the work which G4S employees do” and because a Muslim hijab or other religious clothing would have a “defining impact…on the image of the firm.”
Although freedom of religion is “one of the cornerstones of a democratic society,” Kokott added, people “may be expected to moderate the exercise of [their] religion in the workplace.”
Achbita sued for damages in Belgian court, where the incident took place, and was initially supported by a government agency called the Belgian Center for Equal Opportunities and Combating Racism.
The incident sparked controversy after going viral — though many sided with the employer and its right to dictate what employees wear on the job from a religious standpoint.
“She took the job knowing what the dress code was,” one reader commented on the America 1st Facebook page. “It was all well and good until all of a sudden she converted. It’s not the companies problem. If you need to wear a special clothing because of your religion thing you need to find another job simple as that.”
“I sure hope she lost her job,” another wrote. “Then she can wear her hijab in her home where she can remember the job she had.”
“Good for the Belgian court system,” wrote another commenter. “Too bad for her, but she was told and warned.”
“Asking for special favors makes one not equal to others,” another reader commented.
Source: EU Observer