Tagged: equal treatment

Achbita v G4S: Religious Equality Squeezed between Profit and Prejudice

By Gareth Davies

And below: Bougnaoui v Micropole: Mildly Surreal Thoughts on Competence and Clothes (particularly when worn by women)

The two cases were decided on the same day by the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice. Although they both concern essentially the same fact set – a firm wishing to dismiss an employee who insists on wearing an Islamic headscarf – the questions referred were different, and the substantive discussion is found in Achbita. Bougnaoui, briefly noted at the end of this blog, addresses just one, odd, point: the Court confirmed that the fact that a Muslim woman wears a headscarf does not make her incapable of doing her work. That is little comfort though – since Achbita decided that she can probably be dismissed anyway.


In Achbita v G4S the Court of Justice was asked whether a private firm could prohibit the wearing of Islamic headscarves by employees who dealt with customers, or whether this violated the ban on religious discrimination in the workplace, found in Directive 2000/78. The claimant, Ms Achbita, worked as a receptionist for G4S in Belgium. When she began wearing a headscarf she was warned that it was against company policy, which disallowed all religious, political or philosophical signs in the workplace. When she continued, she was dismissed.

The Court found that under the right circumstances a company might be entitled to have a policy of this sort. One condition was that the policy must be in writing – in the interests of certainty and clarity. Another condition was that it must apply without distinction to all beliefs. Continue reading

From a formalist to a substantive understanding of equal treatment in higher education (Case C-20/12 Giersch)

The case Giersch, decided on the 20th of June, dealt with residence-based restrictions on financial aid for students. According to Luxembourg law, students received financial aid if they were residents in Luxembourg, regardless of nationality. The measure was challenged on the basis of Article 7(2) of Reg No 1612/68 (now Reg No 492/2011), which requires equal treatment in regard to social advantages, which also includes financial grants for children of workers who are students (Bernini).

The plaintiffs were children of frontier workers employed in Luxembourg, who would not receive student aid, however, because they had not resided in Luxembourg. The Court found the residence requirement to be indirectly discriminatory. Luxembourg replied that the measure was justified as a means of „increasing the proportion of residents with a higher education degree in order to promote the development of the economy“. The Court accepted this as a legitimate objective able to justify differential treatment, and also recognized that a residence requirement could be an appropriate instrument to achieve that goal.

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