The European Union's senior legal advisor has declared that employers are within their rights to forbid workers from wearing religious articles, including kippot, headscarves and crucifixes.
The issue arose when security company G4S fired a Muslim receptionist in Belgium, after she refused to remove her head covering. Lawyers representing the receptionist claimed that the move violated the EU's anti-discrimination laws.
Juliane Kokott, the advocate general at the European Court of Justice, says that G4S is allowed to set a "policy of strict religious and ideological neutrality" by banning garments representing all religions equally.
"There is nothing in the present case to indicate that an individual was ‘treated less favorably,'" she wrote. "While an employee cannot 'leave' his sex, skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or disability 'at the door,' he may be expected to moderate the exercise of religion in the workplace.
"A company rule such as that operated by G4S could just as easily affect a male employee of Jewish faith who comes to work wearing a kippah, or a Sikh who wishes to perform his duties in a turban, or male or female employees of a Christian faith who wish to wear a clearly visible crucifix or a T-shirt bearing the slogan 'Jesus is great' to work"
The ultimate decision is up to the Court of Justice, though Kokott's statement gives a strong indication of how the Court will rule.