What Happened: On Thursday, the European Union’s top court ruled that employers are allowed to forbid the wearing of visible symbols of religious or political belief, such as hijab. This happened in a ruling of two cases brought by women in Germany who were suspended from their jobs for wearing one.

Details: In the cases brought to court, both Muslim women did not wear headscarves when they started in their jobs, but decided to do so years later after coming back from parental leave. They were told that this was not allowed, and were at different points either suspended, told to come to work without it or put on a different job, court documents show.

“A prohibition on wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes,” the court said. “However, that justification must correspond to a genuine need on the part of the employer and, in reconciling the rights and interests at issue, the national courts may take into account the specific context of their Member State and, in particular, more favourable national provisions on the protection of freedom of religion.”

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