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French Court of Cassation (Cour de Cassation française), Chambre Sociale, No. 19-24.079, 14 April 2021

Type Judgment
Case number 19-24.079


Dismissal of the worker for refusing to remove the Islamic headscarf in the workplace. Notion of essential and decisive requirement for the performance of the working activity, pursuant to Article 4 par 1 of Directive 78/2000.

Normative references

Art. L. 1321-5French Labour Code
Directive 2000 / 78 / EC of the Council of 27 November 2000


1. The employer, to the extent that he must guarantee respect for all the fundamental rights and freedoms of each employee within the working community, may provide in the company's internal regulations or in a memorandum subject to the same provisions of the internal regulations, in application of Article L. 1321-5 of the Labor Code, a neutrality clause that prohibits employees who are in contact with customers from wearing any visible political, philosophical or religious sign in the workplace.

2. The concept of "essential and decisive professional requirement", within the meaning of Article 4 § 1 of Directive 2000/78 of 27 November 2000, refers to a requirement objectively dictated by the nature or the conditions of exercise of the professional activity involved. It cannot, however, cover subjective considerations, such as the employer's willingness to take into account the particular wishes of the client. Therefore, the alleged expectation of customers as to the physical appearance of saleswomen in a retail clothing business cannot constitute an essential and decisive professional requirement, within the meaning of Article 4 § 1 of Directive 2000 / 78 / EC of the Council of 27 November 2000, as interpreted by the Court of Justice of the European Union.