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European Court named the ban of wearing headscarf as “direct discrimination”

European Court named the ban of wearing headscarf as “direct discrimination”A Muslim woman in France who was fired for refusing to remove her headscarf should have been allowed to cover her head at work, a legal advisor to the EU’s top court has stated, adding that the request amounts to “unlawful direct discrimination.”

“There is nothing to suggest she was unable to perform her duties as a design engineer because she wore an Islamic headscarf,” Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston said in a written opinion on Wednesday.

Asma Bougnaoui lost her job at IT consultancy Micopole SA in 2009 just 11 months after starting. She had been asked by her bosses to stop wearing her Muslim veil claiming clients at the company she was working with felt uneasy by her choice of head wear.

She was sacked after refusing to pull off her hijab while dealing with clients.She complained to an employment tribunal which found in favour of her bosses, but after lodging an appeal her case has ended up before the European Court of Justice.

In a preliminary opinion Eleanor Sharpston judged that a company policy that requires an employee to remove her hijab when in contact with clients constitutes "unlawful direct discrimination".

Sharpston said the EU rules on discrimination does allow for strict rules on appearance if it is a “genuine and determining occupational requirement”, but that could not be applied in the case of an IT consultant.

She stated that if the woman had been wearing a full face veil, like the niqab or burqa then would have crossed the line because: "Western society regards visual or eye contact as being of fundamental importance in any relationship involving face-to-face communication."

She concluded that businesses should put the interests of their employees before their own.

"It is not about losing one’s job in order to help the employer’s profit line," Sharpston said.

Her opinion does not quite signal victory for Bougnaoui because it is not binding. The court will issue a final judgement on the case later this year, but preliminary rulings are normally followed.
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