Home > Workplace > Belgium > 2008-01-15 - Labour Appeal Court of Brussels, n. 48.695

2008-01-15 - Labour Appeal Court of Brussels, n. 48.695

Workplace · Belgium · Dismissal · Dress code

Dismissal for wearing headscarf justified by the protection of the company’image

Key facts of the case - In 2004, book shop “Club” fired a sale woman who, after several years on sick leave, came back to work wearing the Islamic headscarf. The employee was fired without compensation or notice, for grave misconduct (motif grave). She launched judicial proceedings and lost her case before the First Instance Labour Court of Brussels on 21 March 2006. On appeals, the Labour Court upheld the first ruling.

Main reasoning of the court - The Court based its ruling on several grounds. First, it held that the freedom of religion was not at stake in the case because what the company blamed its employee for was not her belonging to the Islamic faith but her coming to work while wearing a conspicuous religious symbol despite the fact that there are clear guidelines within the company according to which workers should not only wear a uniform with the logo of the company but should also refrain from wearing any symbols or clothes likely to undermine the corporate image (described as an “open, available, sober, family-based and neutral” image). Second, the freedom to manifest one’s religion is not absolute: restrictions are allowed where the religious practices are “likely to lead to chaos”. In the present case, the Labour Appeal Court considered that the company could justify the firing on objective consideration linked to its corporate image.
Third, there is no discrimination as the company policy applies to all workers without any distinction.

See the decision: 2008-01-15 - Labour Appeal Court of Brussels, n. 48.695.