Home > Workplace > Germany > 2008-03-06 - Labour Court of Köln, n. 19 Ca 7222/07

2008-03-06 - Labour Court of Köln, n. 19 Ca 7222/07

Workplace · Germany · Dress code · Faith-Based Organisation

Employer has no right to forbid wearing a headscarf, when employee is not a representative figure

Key facts of the case - The Muslim claimant was a nurse in the defendant’s hospital. The hospital is run by the “Cellitinnen zur Heiligen Maria” (a catholic collective organization of nuns dealing with nursing practice). The claimant started to wear a headscarf for religious reasons. Thereupon the defendant forbade her wearing a headscarf during her work. After her refusal to remove it the defendant terminated her employment contract without notice for a compelling reason. Now the claimant challenges the validity of the termination.

Main reasoning of the court - The claim has to be granted. The termination of the contract is not legally valid since it contradicts § 1 KSchG and § 1 II KSchG (Employment Protection Act). Despite the fact that the employer is an organization pursuing ideological and religious aims (“Tendenzbetrieb”) the privileges of direction (i.e. to forbid wearing a headscarf) are limited to employees practicing as representative figures of the institution. This means that he / she has to be in a relevant and important position with responsibility and significant influence to represent the institution. As a nurse, the claimant does not have such attributes. Thus she is not a representative figure with the conclusion that the employer was not allowed to forbid her wearing a headscarf. There were also no principles of appearance written in the employment contract. A termination of contract is assessed as last resort and was not justified in this case. Furthermore the employer did not announce a warning notice which is a regular prerequisite for a termination for a compelling reason. Reasons to classify a warning notice as unnecessary are not given.