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2008-01-14 - Antwerp Labour Court of appeal, Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism v. nv G4S Security Services and Samira Achbita, n. 53282

Workplace · Belgium · Discrimination · Dress code

There is no discrimination on ground of religion when the discriminatory decision has already ceased

Key facts of the case - A receptionist informed her superior that, for religious reasons, she wanted to wear a headscarf in the workplace. She was told that the wearing of any visible religious symbol was contrary to the principle of absolute neutrality of the firm, applying inside as well as outside the firm, with respect to any contact the employees might have with the clients.
The case prompted the employer to institute a uniform, responding to this incident. Mediation attempts failed and the woman was fired, with three months notice. The summary judgment proceeding (action en cessation) was overturned by the court and then the court of appeal.

Main reasoning of the court - The Labour Court considered that the employee had no current interest in lauching the procedure because the discriminatory decision (refusal to allow the wearing of the headscarf at work) had ceased and because there were really few probabilities that she could find herself one day in the same situation again, so the danger of repetition was not present.
This decision shows the limits of the injunction procedure (action en cessation) enshrined in Belgian antidiscrimination law when the discriminatory decision has already ceased.

Comment - In order to make injunctive procedures (action en cessation) more meaningful, it should not be required that the applicant him/herself will have to run the risk of repeated adverse treatment by employer.