Preventing an employee from wearing a veil is not discriminating against them, one of Austria’s highest courts has ruled.
In the landmark decision, Austria’s Supreme Court (OGH) said that if clothing prevents communication, an employer may legally dismiss them.
The decision was made in the case of a woman who already wore an Abaya, which is an Islamic overgarment, and headscarf, but who was fired after she told her boss she wanted to wear a veil covering her face.
In addition to her claim of unfair dismissal, the woman says her employer made discriminatory remarks about her because of her islamic clothing. Her boss reportedly said she was undergoing an “experiment in ethnic clothing” and she wearing a "disguise".
A lower court had previously ruled that it’s likely she was discriminated against, but it needed further clarification, passing the case to the OGH.
The court said although the comments were discriminatory, firing her for wearing the veil was not, because the clothing was likely to prevent her communicating with others. The court then awarded her just £1,000 (€1,200) of the £6,000 ( €7,000) in damages she was seeking.
The Islamic veil is the subject of fierce debate in Europe — many member states have legislated against it. The first country to ban the veil, France, now fines women who violate the law. Belgian has followed suit, and local bans on the veil are now in place in Switzerland and Italy.