On 14 March 2017, The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled for the first time that prohibition to wear visible political, philosophical or religious sign by an internal rule of company does not constitute direct discrimination. The facts of case as follows ; A Belgian Muslim woman Samira Achbita was employed by G4S as a receptionist on 12 February 2003. In the meantime, there was a rule for the employees within G4S, which is not written, that prohibited wearing visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace. In April 2006, Ms. Achbita asked for wearing a headscarf during the working hours. Her employers responded that it would not be allowed since wearing religious signs damages the principle of neutrality of the company. On 13 June 2006, G4S approved a regulation provided that employees are prohibited to wear political, philosophical or religious signs in the workplace. Ms. Achbita’s insistence for wearing headscarf resulted in dismissal of her on 12 June 2006. She challenged the dismissal before the Belgian Courts. Court of Cassation applied to the European Court of Justice to determine whether the implementation the internal rule in question is compatible with the EU directives. Since there exists no definition of religion in the directives, ECHR was referred. Pursuant to the article 9 of ECHR, freedom of religion includes both having religious belief and entertaining that belief in public. The ECJ decides that the fact that internal rules of the company was treated in the same way for all the employees, this rule does not constitute as direct discrimination. Furthermore, such a rule could be considered as indirect discrimination if it is directed to a certain religion or belief which would be damaged from this internal rule. However, the court concludes that justification of the prohibition may be resulted in the elimination of indirect discrimination, such as principle of neutrality for the companies. Decision of a court got reactions from international community and was criticized on the ground of promotion of Islamophobia. Critics was based on the fact that ECJ has ignored the minority rights and has opted the majoritarian understanding of democracy rather than pluralistic understanding of it.
Ibrahim Enes Altan