The banning of a headscarf at work does not constitute direct discrimination. This is confirmed by the CJEU in Achbita v G4S Secure Solutions. G4S in Belgium operated a policy of ‘neutrality’, banning all wearing of political, religious or similar signs. A Muslim employee announced she wanted to start wearing a headscarf; she was told she could not, and she was then dismissed.
The CJEU held that G4S’s policy did not amount to direct discrimination on grounds of religion because it prohibited all religious signs, so it was not treating one religion less favourably than another. It also held that G4S’s rule introduced a difference in treatment which was indirectly based on religion, as Muslims are placed at a particular disadvantage. It held that an employer’s desire to project an image of neutrality was a legitimate aim provided it applied only to customer-facing employees, and left open the question of whether it would have been possible to redeploy Ms Achbita into a non- customer facing role (rather than dismiss her).