The issue of the hijab, a traditional headscarf worn around the head and shoulders, has caused controversy across Europe for years and underlined sharp differences over integrating Muslims.
In the cases brought to court, both Muslim women a special – needs carer at a childcare center in Hamburg run by a charitable association, and a cashier at the Mueller drugstore chain – did not wear headscarves when they started in their jobs but decided to do so years later after coming back from parental leave. They were told that this was not allowed, and were at different points either suspended, told to come to work without it, or put on a different job, court documents show.
The EU court had to decide in both cases whether headscarf bans at work represented a violation of the freedom of religion or were allowed as part of the freedom to conduct a business and they wish to project an image of neutrality to customers.
Its response was that such bans were possible if justified by an employer’s need to present a neutral image.