Antwerp: Court rules company can fire woman for wearing headscarf

Antwerp: Court rules company can fire woman for wearing headscarf

According to the Antwerp (Belgium) labor court, the wearing of religious clothing or symbols at work is not part of the protected 'faith' criteria in the anti-discrimination law. G4S, a company offering security and reception services, can impose the unwritten company neutrality principle on a Muslim woman who wanted to wear a headscarf. The verdict was reported in the De Juristenkrant legal journal.

This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog -

The employee initially worked without a headscarf and in freely chosen clothing by various G4S clients. In 2006 she told her bosses that from now on she wanted to wear a headscarf at work too. G4S quickly made it clear they will not tolerate that, because it conflicted with the aspired-for neutrality, both within the company and towards clients.

During a period of sick-leave, the woman was told that when she comes back, she would also have to wear a uniform.

Despite negotiation attempts by the Centre for Equal Opportunities and the Fight Against Racism and the liberal union, it came to a confrontation in which the employee, with a headscarf, was kicked out until she would follow the dress code precisely.

Meanwhile, the company board adjusted the regulations and added a new clause which barred employees from 'wearing any visible symbols of their political, ideological or religious convictions at work and/or any ritual act manifested as a result [of those convictions]'. After an unsuccessful meeting, the woman was fired with three months' severance pay. The following day the new regulation came into effect.

The court rules that the woman unjustly claimed she was fired for her religious convictions. According to the court, it would only be discrimination if she was fired for being a follower of Islam, according to De Juristenkrant.

According to the author Katayoun Alidadi, researcher at KULeuven, this verdict by the labor court makes the protection offered against discriminatory firing meaningless.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

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