The ECJ rendered its judgments in Cases C-157/15 Achbita, Centrum voor Gelijkheid van kansen en voor racismebestrijding v G4S Secure Solutions, and C-188/15 Bougnaoui and Association de défense des droits de l’homme (ADDH) v Micropole Univers on March 14 2017.
The Court concludes that the prohibition on wearing an Islamic headscarf, which arises from an internal rule of a private undertaking prohibiting the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign in the workplace, does not constitute direct discrimination based on religion or belief within the meaning of the directive. By contrast, such a prohibition may constitute indirect discrimination if it is established that the apparently neutral obligation it imposes results, in fact, in persons adhering to a particular religion or belief being put at a particular disadvantage. However, such indirect discrimination may be objectively justified by a legitimate aim, such as the pursuit by the employer, in its relations with its customers, of a policy of political, philosophical and religious neutrality, provided that the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary. However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination. The Court of Justice points out that it is only in very limited circumstances that a characteristic related, in particular, to religion may constitute a genuine and determining occupational requirement, a concept which refers to a requirement that is objectively dictated by the nature of the occupational activities concerned or of the context in which they are carried out and does not cover subjective considerations, such as the employer’s willingness to take account of the particular wishes of the customer.
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