Home > Workplace > Netherlands > 2007-11-06 - Equal Treatment Commission, n. 2007-195

2007-11-06 - Equal Treatment Commission, n. 2007-195

Workplace · The Netherlands · Civil servant · Discrimination · Dress code

The rejection of an application for the wearing of Islamic headscarf amounts to unlawful discrimination

Key facts of the case - A Muslim woman wearing a headscarf for religious reasons applies for a job as “hoor- en beslis-medewerker” (equivalent to judge position) for the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Office.
The applicant was rejected because – in the Office’s opinion – she lacked the flexibility to take off her headscarf when in contact with asylum seekers.

Main reasoning of the court - The Equal Treatment Commission qualified the decision not to hire the Muslim woman for this reason as indirect discrimination on religious grounds. The Office makes efforts to offer asylum seekers maximum room to give their version of their personal history in a neutral environment, free from elements that could create even an appearance of prejudice. This aim is in the opinion of the Equal Treatment Commission weighty and not discriminatory. The means to achieve that aim (the expectation that the collaborators of IND in direct contact with clients refrain from all visible manifestations of religion or belief) are qualified by the Equal Treatment Commission as disproportionate: the application of alternatives (suggested by the applicant) were not tested.
It concludes to unlawful discrimination on the ground of religion.

Comment - In April 2012 the CGB published an Advisory Opinion on the dress code of the Immigration and naturalization Service (IND), ‘Neutraliteit, gezag en zichtbare geloofsuitingen bij de IND’ (Neutrality, authority, and visible religious manifestation in the IND). The IND code of conduct contains that expressions of faith in dressing and appearance are permitted. That means that employees are basically free to dress as they please. But dressing and appearance should not interfere with proceedings. Regarding certain functions, such as those of hearing- and decision-making employees, the IND expects a certain self restraint from its employees when it comes to the wearing of visible religious expressions. In some cases, such as legal representatives, the employee is expected not to wear visible expressions of faith. The code of conduct also states that face covering clothing is not allowed because of the communication with employees and clients.