October 31
2020
Trajan Shipley
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15th October 2020
Employment & Immigration Human Rights

Court of Justice to hear case on equal treatment and discrimination regarding the use of a headscarf in work

Official publication has been made of a request for a preliminary ruling by the French-Speaking Labour Court of Brussels (Tribunal du travail francophone de Bruxelles), in Case SCRL (C-344/20), concerning the interpretation of the Equal Treatment Directive in a case concerning the use of the headscarf by a female employee in the workspace.

The case will provide the Court with the opportunity to revisit its case law in Achbita and Bougnaoui (C-157/15 and C-188/15), where the Court held that the so-called neutrality rule would constitute indirect discrimination rather than direct.

In the national proceedings leading to the case, the applicant sought a declaration that the defendant, a property management company, infringed anti-discrimination legislation by failing to conclude an internship agreement on the basis of her religious belief and gender. The company’s terms of employment prohibit workers from manifesting in any way (including clothing), their religious, philosophical or political beliefs.

In the questions referred, the referring court seeks clarification on whether:

  • (i) under Article 1 of the Directive, religion and belief are two facets of the same protected criterion and, if so, whether that prevents a national court from continuing to interpret national law as meaning that religious, philosophical and political beliefs are separate criteria;
  • (ii) under Article 2(2)(a) of the Directive, whether the rule in the company’s terms of employment constitutes direct discrimination if, in practice and in a series of situations, a female worker who intendes to exercise her freedom of religion by wearing a headscarf is treated less favourably.

Read the officially published questions here.

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