Job application

Brussels: a company rejects a Muslim application because of its faith

The labor court ruled that the company rejected the candidacy of a Muslim woman because of her faith and gender.

A Muslim woman wearing the hijab applied for an administrative post at the Société intercommunale de transport de Bruxelles (STIB-MIVB), but her application was twice rejected.

A Brussels labor court ruled that the law had been violated because the woman was not only the victim of direct religious discrimination, but also of indirect discrimination based on sex. Criticizing the behavior of the STIB-MIVB, the court ordered the company to compensate the injured candidate by at least 50,000 euros.

The decision was announced Wednesday by Unia, a Brussels-based NGO. They took the case to court with the Human Rights League (LDH). They argued that STIB-MIVB refused to hire the woman in 2015 and 2016, even though she had the technical skills required for the advertised position.

“In practice, this means that she will no longer be allowed to be discriminated against as before,” Unia member Els Keytsman said, welcoming the decision.

According to the LDH, the recruitment agencies told the complainant that the STIB-MIVB follows the “policy of neutrality”, which means that its staff are not allowed to wear visible religious, belief, political or philosophical symbols. In light of this policy, she was told that she would have to remove her headscarf if she was hired at the company.

During the interview, the complainant changed her traditional headscarf into a turban, but was told that headgear is not allowed regardless of how it is worn. After that, she never heard from the recruiter again.

Defending its policy, the company said the woman was not rejected because of her headgear.

The court declares that the company does not apply equal treatment

On the other hand, the judge declared that the so-called STIB-MIVB neutrality policy is not carried out in a coherent and fair manner, stressing that the employer’s partisanship should not dictate the hiring policy or lead to all kinds of discrimination.

Instead, the court said, STIB-MIVB’s policy undermines the goal of diversity – also a key business value.

“Today, an employee is not authorized to wear a headscarf, while a male colleague is authorized to wear a beard. STIB will have to closely examine this policy and will no longer be authorized to apply the principles of exclusive neutrality. Unia’s Kslaeytsman said. .

Beards are often worn by men of faith. They also show signs of political tendency or ideological conviction.

For the court, the case also symbolized indirect discrimination based on the sex of the complainant.

The decision of the labor court could have serious consequences for STIB. The company has now been ordered to change its staff recruitment policy and exclude the principle of neutrality.

But the decision also carries significant weight for the country’s Muslims. Belgium is a country where women wearing the hijab have been pushed to the limit. Thousands of people protested when a decision by the Belgian Constitutional Court banned the wearing of headscarves in higher education in July last year.

In January of this year, however, the Muslim community celebrated the lifting of the ban on headscarves and other religious symbols in universities. The decision was taken by the local elected representatives of the French-speaking Walloon Region.

This article has been adapted from its original source.