Private employers may bar staff from wearing Islamic headscarves at work. REPRESENTATION PIC/Thinkstock
Private employers may bar staff from wearing Islamic headscarves at work. REPRESENTATION PIC/Thinkstock

Brussels: Private employers may bar staff from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols under certain conditions, the European Union's top court ruled on Tuesday.

In its first ruling on what has become a major political issue, the Court of Justice (ECJ) found that a Belgian firm which had a rule barring employees who dealt with customers from wearing visible religious and political symbols in order to project a public image of neutrality may not be guilty of discrimination, if it met certain other conditions. But, it found that a French company that dismissed a software engineer for refusing to remove her headscarf may have breached EU laws barring discrimination on religious grounds if it did so, not because of a general internal rule but just because a particular client objected.