Nrk the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud



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Case no. 46/2014


Decision of 12 May 2015
The parties to the case:


  1. NRK

  2. The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud


The composition of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal was as follows:

Ivar Danielsen (meeting chair)

Britt Elin Strand

Usman Ivar Shakar

Astrid Merethe Svele

Vibeke Blaker Strand

The subject matter of the case
Appeal by NRK of 17 June 2014 against the statement of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud (the Ombud) of 27 May 2014. The case raises the question of whether NRK’s absolute prohibition against the wearing of religious symbols by newsreaders during television broadcasts contravenes the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of religion; see section 6 of Act No. 60/2013 relating to a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion and belief (the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act).
The facts of the case
Hosts of NRK’s television news broadcasts are not permitted to wear religious, political or ideological symbols during broadcasts. The prohibition covers all symbols irrespective of religion, including crosses, the hijab, humanist symbols, turbans, etc.

NRK is Norway’s leading, and largest, media business, and employs approximately 3,500 people. NRK is organised as a limited company, with all shares being owned by the State. NRK’s purpose is to provide public service broadcasting for the entire population of Norway by means of radio, television and other media platforms; see Article 3 of NRK’s articles of association.

The Ministry of Culture constitutes NRK’s general meeting and formulates its articles of association.
Section 12d of NRK’s articles of associations states that:

The NRK shall have editorial independence. The NRK shall safeguard its integrity and credibility in order to be able to operate freely and independently in relation to persons or groups that, for political, ideological, economic or other reasons, wish to exert influence on its editorial content. Activities shall be characterised by a high ethical standard and provide a balanced representation over time. An attempt shall be made to achieve objectivity and an analytical and neutral approach, cf. the self-regulatory mechanisms of the Norwegian press: the Rights and Duties of the Editor, the Code of Ethics and the Code of Ethics for Text Advertising.

NRK follows an absolute rule that newsreaders shall appear neutral and not wear any visible religious, political or ideological symbols when presenting news on television. The rule also applies to debate moderators during television broadcasts of ideological, political and current affairs debates such as Aktuelt and Debatten. The debate moderators are regarded as newsreaders in this context.
The prohibition against using religious symbols, etc. is not enshrined in writing, but follows from the established, long-standing practice developed by NRK since it began news broadcasts in the 1960s.
NRK does not apply a general prohibition against the use of religious symbols by staff. Journalists, editorial staff and other employees may wear religious symbols while at work at NRK. Newsreaders do not simply read the news, but also engage in active journalism in connection with programmes. In the case of news journalists who are not newsreaders, the responsible editor conducts an individual assessment of whether a given news journalist may be permitted to wear religious symbols while at work. The editor’s assessment will depend on the specific matters the journalist covers and the extent to which the journalist personally appears in the transmitted reports. The journalist must be addressed appropriately for the assignment. Accordingly, the rules are not as strict for this group.
According to submitted information, TV2 has similar rules for its hosts, and the same prohibition is applied by Sveriges Television. The submitted information indicates that Danmarks Radio (which also provides television services), does not prohibit the wearing of crosses.
The Broadcasting Council considered NRK’s rules for newsreaders on 2 December 2013 and decided, with one vote against, that NRK should be politically and religiously neutral in the context of news communication.

Following the meeting of the Broadcasting Council, NRK has re-evaluated its guidelines and concluded that they are appropriately and clearly framed.



Consideration by the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and further proceedings
The Ombud took up the matter on her own initiative on 12 November 2013, after a newsreader working for NRK Sørlandet (NRK Southern Norway) was prohibited from wearing a cross on a necklace during news broadcasts.
In a statement of 27 May 2014, the Ombud concluded that NRK was in breach of section 6 of the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act due to its prohibition against the wearing of, among other things, religious symbols by newsreaders.
NRK appealed against the Ombud’s statement on 17 June 2014. The Ombud reconsidered the matter but upheld her conclusion. The Ombud forwarded the case to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal (the Tribunal), by letter dated 25 June 2014.

The case was considered at the Tribunal’s meeting on 21 April 2015. Tribunal members Ivar Danielsen (meeting chair), Britt Elin Strand, Usman Ivar Shakar, Astrid Merethe Svele and Vibeke Blaker Strand participated in the deliberations. NRK was represented by the director of NRK’s news department and Advocate Ane Stokland. The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud was represented by Assistant Ombud Elisabeth Lier Haugseth and Higher Executive Officer Warvin Ringkjøb. Miriam Kveen and Maj Christel Skramstad attended as observers for the Ombud. The Tribunal’s secretariat was represented by Else Anette Grannes, Ingeborg Aas, Anne Brit Øverås and Anette Klem Funderud.



The legal issues raised by the case

The jurisdiction of the Tribunal

The Tribunal has jurisdiction under section 1 of Act No. 40/2005 relating to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal (the Anti-Discrimination Ombud Act).

The Tribunal has jurisdiction to supervise and promote compliance with the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act; see section 1, second paragraph, sub-paragraph 2, of the Anti-Discrimination Ombud Act.

The Tribunal finds that it has jurisdiction to make a decision as to whether the anti-discrimination legislation has been breached; see section 7 of the Anti-Discrimination Ombud Act, see also section 9.

If the Tribunal concludes that unlawful discrimination has occurred, it will also have jurisdiction to order cessation, remediation or other necessary measures to ensure that such discrimination ends; see section 7 of the Anti-Discrimination Ombud Act.



The national prohibition against discrimination
The Norwegian Constitution contains a separate chapter on human rights. Article 100 of the Constitution grants freedom of expression, while Article 98 of the Constitution states that:
All people are equal under the law.
No human being must be subject to unfair or disproportionate differential treatment.
Further, Article 16 of the Constitution states, among other things, that all inhabitants of Norway have the right to free exercise of their religion, and that all religious and belief communities shall be supported on equal terms.
The general prohibition against discrimination is found in section 6 of the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act. The provision reads as follows:
Discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion or belief shall be prohibited. Discrimination on the basis of national origin, descent, skin colour and language shall also be deemed discrimination on the basis of ethnicity. The prohibition shall apply to discrimination on the basis of actual, assumed, former or future ethnicity, religion or belief. The prohibition shall also apply to discrimination on the basis of the ethnicity, religion or belief of a person with whom the person who is discriminated against has a connection.
Discrimination” shall mean direct and indirect differential treatment that is not lawful pursuant to section 7 or section 8. “Direct differential treatment” shall mean an act or omission that has the purpose or effect that a person or an undertaking is treated worse than others in the same situation, and that is due to ethnicity, religion or belief. “Indirect differential treatment” shall mean any apparently neutral provision, condition, practice, act or omission that results in persons being put in a worse position than others, and that occurs on the basis of ethnicity, religion or belief.”
The preparatory works to the former Anti-Discrimination Act (Act No. 33/2005), stated that wearing, for example, a hijab or turban would fall under the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of religion; see Proposition to the Odelsting No. 33 (2004–2005), page 103.
Lawful differential treatment is regulated by section 7 of the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act. The provision reads as follows:
Differential treatment shall not breach the prohibition in section 6 if:

  1. it has an objective purpose,

  2. it is necessary to achieve the purpose, and

  3. the negative impact of the differential treatment on the person or persons whose position will worsen is reasonably proportionate in view of the intended result.”

The conditions for lawful differential treatment under section 7 of the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act are the same as under the former Anti-Discrimination Act (Act No. 33/2005). Accordingly, the preparatory works to the former act will also be relevant when interpreting the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act (Act No. 60/2013); see Proposition to the Storting 88 L (2012–2013), page 176.

Section 7 is a general provision specifying when differential treatment on the basis of ethnicity, religion or belief will not be deemed discrimination contrary to the prohibition in section 6, and thus lawful; see Proposition to the Storting 88 L (2012–2013), pages 176–177. It follows from the provision that the permissibility of differential treatment depends on a concrete, discretionary, overall assessment. The exception provision must be interpreted in a manner that is consistent with the EU directives in this area and international human rights.

Whether or not a purpose is objective will depend on a specific assessment of whether the purpose is deemed reasonable and legitimate. Further, the purpose must be such that the principle of equal treatment must yield; see Proposition to the Odelsting No. 33 (2004–2005), page 206. The necessity requirement implies both a requirement that a rule resulting in differential treatment must be suitable to achieve the purpose in question and that it is impossible to achieve the same purpose in a way that avoids differential treatment. Where possible, any available alternatives must be used. The third condition states that a concrete assessment of proportionality is required as to whether the purpose to be achieved is reasonably proportionate in view of negative impact of the differential treatment on the person or persons whose position will worsen. Page 176 of Proposition to the Storting 88 L (2012–2013) adopted the formulation that a proportionality assessment of the objective and the means is required when assessing whether a situation entails a “disproportionate negative impact”.

The standard of proof is set out in section 10 of the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act:


If there are circumstances that give reason to believe that a breach of any of the provisions of sections 4, 5, 6, 7 or 9 has taken place, such breach shall be assumed to have taken place unless the person responsible for the act, omission or statement produces evidence showing that no such breach has taken place.

National case law
As far as the Tribunal is aware, the question of the scope of the prohibition against discrimination in connection with individual use of religious symbols has not been brought before the ordinary courts in Norway. However, individual cases concerning the use of religious head coverings have been considered by the Ombud and the Tribunal (and, before 2006, the former equality complaints board).

In case 8/2010, the Tribunal considered whether the police’s prohibition against use of religious head coverings contravened section 4 of the former Anti-Discrimination Act and section 3 of the former Gender Equality Act. The Tribunal found that, in principle, the uniform regulations constituted indirect differential treatment.

The Tribunal concluded that the objective of expressing neutrality and equality was an objective purpose. When assessing whether or not the prohibition was necessary and had a disproportionate negative impact on those subjected to differential treatment, the Tribunal stated that:

As the Ministry of Justice points out, the Norwegian Police Force enjoys great respect from the population, which to a large degree is based on that the Police Force exercises its authority in accordance with the fundamental principles such as legal competence, equality and objectivity. Even though uniforming to a large degree substantiates and supports the impression of the Police as neutral and impartial, the Tribunal has difficulty in seeing that this confidence would be weakened to a substantial degree by allowing a religious head covering. In this connection, the Tribunal also refers to that in the countries which have allowed religious head covering, there is a very small number of persons who in actual fact wear religious head covering when they are on duty, and as far as the Tribunal is aware, there have been no reports of special problems connected to the Police’ exercise of their duties where such head covering is in use. It must be assumed that in Norway there will also be a small number, without this in itself being decisive for the Tribunal’s evaluation.



In the evaluation of whether the measure is necessary in order to restore calm and order, the Tribunal understands the Ministry’s viewpoints very well regarding the risk that symbol effects in certain situations can escalate conflict situations, and that to a large degree there is a need for neutral uniforms.

Nevertheless, the Tribunal’s viewpoint is such that the effect of external signs such as hijab will be marginal in relation to creating conflict in an already tense situation.

The National Police Directorate and the Ministry are the most qualified to evaluate Police operations. However, the statements from there are not unanimous. It was precisely these entities that put forward the original proposal to change the Uniform Regulative, probably after the Police operative circumstances were considered.

Further, the Tribunal lays emphasis on that Norway has an objective of being a multi-cultural and including society, and that this should also be reflected in the Police as in other occupational groups. A prohibition against religious head covering can prevent diversity in the Police and complicate recruiting of persons with religious convictions which necessistate wearing religious head covering. For a part of Norway’s population this will in practice mean an occupational prohibition.

The Tribunal concluded that the police’s uniform regulations, which prohibit the use of religious head coverings in combination with the police uniform, contravened section 4 of the Anti-Discrimination Act and section 3 of the Gender Equality Act.

The question in Tribunal case 2/2014 was whether the regulations of a security company which prohibited the use of religious head coverings contravened the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnicity and/or gender. The security company was responsible for security checks at Oslo Airport (Gardermoen). In its evaluation, the Tribunal concluded that the prohibition against religious head coverings was based on the objective purpose of promoting respect and calm, value neutrality, and the objective of eliminating gender-stereotyped practices. The prohibition was thus necessary to achieve the purpose. The Tribunal also concluded that the differential treatment did not have a disproportionate negative impact on employees. Among other things, it was pointed out that permitting the use of the hijab could necessitate gender-segregated security checks and result in social pressure on Muslim employees to use the hijab.

The question in Tribunal case 35/2014 was whether a security company’s uniform regulations, which specified that beards should be short and well-groomed, contravened the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of religion and/or ethnicity. This case also concerned security checks at Oslo Airport (Gardermoen). The Tribunal stated:

The use of religious symbols, including beards, is closely connected to the right of individuals to participate in employment, since a prohibition may entail exclusion. The right not to suffer differential treatment in connection with access to employment finds strong support in international human rights conventions. The right of individuals to wear religious symbols is therefore strong. Exceptions from this general rule require weighty grounds which satisfy the specificity requirements which can be derived from the UN conventions.

In legal theory, eight objectives have been derived from international human rights conventions and case law relating to these, which may justify restriction of the right to use religious head coverings in the context of employment (see Vibeke Blaker Strand, Diskrimineringsvern og religionsutøvelse [Protection against discrimination and the practice of religion] (2012), page 342 onwards). These objectives be summarised as follows: safety (i.e. that a head covering constitutes a physical risk), hygiene, identification, the protection of an undertaking’s general profile (value neutrality), protection of an undertaking’s profile among state institutions which administer power on behalf of society (undermining of neutrality), confidence in the specific exercise of power, respect and calm and the elimination of gender-stereotyped practices. These objectives have been derived on the basis of the prohibition against the use of religious head coverings in state undertakings, but are in the Tribunal’s view also relevant to private undertakings and in cases concerning religious symbols other than head coverings.

In the Tribunal’s view, relevant considerations in the evaluation of whether the provision specifying a “short and well-groomed beard” in the uniform regulations of security company B is necessary to achieve an objective purpose include, particularly, the consideration of neutrality with respect to confidence in controls and any exercise of power, safeguarding of the undertaking’s value-neutral profile and the need to create respect and calm.

The Tribunal found that the statutory conditions for differential treatment to be lawful were met, and concluded that the uniform regulations did not contravene section 6 of the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act (split ruling 4:1).



International prohibitions against discrimination
The key directives are Directive 2000/43/EC on implementation of the principle of equal treatment irrespective of racial or ethnic origin and Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (the Equal Treatment Directive). These deal, among other things, with protection against discrimination on the basis of religion. Formally, the directives are not part of the EEA Agreement, but the Norwegian authorities have assumed a political obligation to implement them nationally. As far as the Tribunal is aware, there is no case law of the European Court of Justice concerning the question of restrictions of the right to wear religious symbols. The prohibitions against discrimination in the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act are designed to comply with EEA/EU law. Accordingly, EEA/EU law is also relevant when interpreting national anti-discrimination legislation with respect to the scope of the right of workers to use religious head coverings.

The Norwegian State has an obligation to prevent discrimination in relations between private parties, and the anti-discrimination legislation must be interpreted in accordance with international human rights. Several key human rights conventions have been incorporated into Norwegian law through section 2 of the Human Rights Act (Act. No. 30/1999), including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Moreover, national law is presumed to be compliant with a state’s obligations under international law (the presumption principle). Accordingly, legislation must, wherever possible, be interpreted so as to comply with international law. In the event of a conflict which cannot be resolved by interpretation, the incorporated human rights conventions must take precedence over other national legislation; see section 3 of the Human Rights Act. Below, an overview is provided of provisions of particular relevance to the question of restrictions of the right to wear religious clothing and symbols.



International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
Freedom of religion follows from Article 18 of the ICCPR. Individual practice of religion may be restricted subject to the conditions specified in Article 18(3):

3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

The provision on freedom of expression in Article 19 of the ICCPR reads as follows:

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.



2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

The protection against discrimination afforded by the convention follows from the prohibitions against discrimination in Article 2(2) and Article 3 of the convention. Article 2(2) states that:

[t]he States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The right to work follows from Article 6 of the convention, which in its first paragraph states that:

[t]he States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.

The requirement that the right to work must be safeguarded without discrimination of any kind is considered part of the core obligation under Article 6 of ICESCR; see paragraph 31 of General Comment No. 18 (2005) of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.



The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

The right to freedom of religion follows from Article 9(1) of the ECHR:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

The power to restrict religious expression is regulated in Article 9(2) of the ECHR:

Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The right to freedom of expression is found in Article 10 of the ECHR:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

International case law

The UN Human Rights Committee has emphasised that the power to restrict religious expression must be narrow (UN Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 22 (1993), paragraph 4).

The Human Rights Committee has issued one substantive opinion concerning the question of the power to restrict the use of religious head coverings in employment under Article 18 of the ICCPR. The case of Karnel Singh Bhinder v. Canada concerned a male Sikh (Bhinder) who wore a turban. Bhinder was employed by the Canadian railways as a maintenance electrician on the night shift, during which he was required to wear a helmet. He lost his job because he failed to comply with the employer’s regulations due to his use of a turban. The Human Rights Committee found that the regulations were based on specific safety considerations which did not go further than necessary.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
The case of Dahlab v. Switzerland (2001) (ECHR-1998-42393) concerned a female teacher working at a primary school in Switzerland. The children were aged four to eight. After Dahlab converted to Islam, she began using the hijab at her workplace. After four years, the school authorities refused her permission to continue doing so. Using the hijab was deemed to contravene Swiss law, which gives high priority to a public education system which is belief-neutral and reflects the separation of state and religion. The ECtHR dismissed the case as obviously unfounded, but nevertheless considered the substantive issues in the case. The court found that prohibiting the use of the hijab intervened in Dahlab’s freedom of religion under Article 9, but also found that the refusal had a legitimate purpose which was “necessary in a democratic society”. The court emphasised that, as a teacher at a public school, Dahlab represented the state, and that this influenced the requirements which could be applied to her. The court also emphasised the pupils and their freedom of religion. The pupils were young, and therefore impressionable. Further, the ECtHR commented on the symbolic nature of the hijab and stated that the use of this head covering reflects stereotyped views of gender roles.

In the Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Leyla Sahin v. Turkey (2005) (ECHR-1998-44774-2), a Turkish medical student, Sahin, appealed against the prohibition against hijabs applied by Turkish universities. Sahin was expelled from her university because she refused to comply with a ban on wearing the hijab (which was introduced while she was studying at the university). Sahin pointed out that, in wearing the hijab, she was complying with a religious requirement, and thus marking her desire to fulfil the duties imposed by Islam. The Grand Chamber affirmed the chamber’s assessment that the restrictions imposed on her infringed her freedom of religion. The Grand Chamber emphasised the secular system in Turkey, gender equality considerations, the interests of those who do not wear the hijab and the symbolic, political effect that wearing the hijab can gave. Sahin failed with her submission that Article 9 of the ECHR had been infringed.

The case of Kurtulmuş v. Turkey (2006) (ECHR-2001-65500) concerned a female professor who wore the hijab at her workplace at Istanbul University. Her use of the hijab contravened the university’s clothing regulations, which were based on the principle that public-sector employees should not indicate their religious affiliation. Disciplinary measures were taken against Kurtulmuş, and she ultimately resigned. The key assessment topic was whether the restriction of the right to wear the hijab was “necessary in a democratic society”; see Article 9(2) of the ECHR. In the assessment, particular weight was given to the importance of ensuring that a state can safeguard secularity in public educational institutions. This was linked with the role of secularism as a fundamental principle in Turkey. The court also emphasised that when a person chooses to take a job with a public educational institution, he or she can also be said to adopt and accept the rules which govern the clothing worn by public-sector employees. The court further referred to the wide discretion enjoyed by states, and concluded that Article 9 of the ECHR had not been breached. The case was dismissed as obviously unfounded.

The case of Eweida and others v. the United Kingdom (2013) (ECHR-2010-48420) reviewed the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. There were four different complainants in the case, all Christians. Only the first complainant, Nadia Eweida, will be referenced here, as the facts of her case are applicable to the present case. Eweida was a member of British Airways’ check-in staff, and was sent home from work because she refused to cover a cross she was wearing, contrary to the company’s dress code.

The court concluded that Article 9 of the ECHR had been breached with respect to Eweida. The court pointed out that the judges in the national proceedings had agreed that the purpose of the dress code was legitimate, as it had been introduced to safeguard the company’s image and reputation. The court stated that the dress code had been in use for several years without causing problems for the complainant or other employees, that the complainant had submitted a formal complaint but chosen to come to work with her cross visible without awaiting the outcome of the complaint, that British Airways had considered the matter in a conscientious manner, and that the complainant had been offered an administrative position with the same salary terms in the period September 2006 to February 2007. The court considered that these factors constituted mitigating circumstances with respect to the seriousness of the infringement. The court concluded that national authorities have some discretion when assessing the proportionality of measures implemented by private companies in relation to their employees. Nevertheless, the court concluded that, in the specific case, this assessment had not been balanced. On the one hand was the consideration of the complainant’s desire to express her religious convictions. On the other was the consideration of the employer’s desire to present a certain image. The court took the view that even though the purpose was undoubtedly legitimate, the national authorities had given it too much weight. The complainant’s cross was discreet, and would not distract from her professional appearance. There was no evidence that the wearing of other permitted religious symbols (such as the hijab and turbans) had had any negative effect on British Airways’ reputation or image. The court concluded that there was no evidence that the interests of others had been infringed, and that the national authorities had failed adequately to protect the complainant’s right to express her religion, contrary to the state’s positive obligations under Article 9.

In the cases of Ahmet Arslan and Others v. Turkey (2010) (Application No. 41135/98) and S.A.S v. France (2014) (Application No. 43835/11), the court also considered the right to wear religious clothing in public.



Supreme Court of Denmark

The Føtex case (UfR 2005. 1265 H) considered the protection of value-neutral image. Føtex is a national supermarket chain in Denmark that sells both foodstuffs and a range of other products. The employees wore a uniform. Persons who were in contact with customers were not permitted to wear head coverings. The regulations had existed for many years, and had been enforced consistently vis-à-vis all employees. Føtex gave great emphasis to integrating persons with a non-Danish ethnic background. At the shopping centre, more than 18% of the employees had a non-Danish ethnic background. The regulations were based on commercial and operational considerations. Føtex wished to be perceived as a politically, religiously and culturally neutral business. Avoiding “disruption” of relations between employees and customers was considered important, and the employees were also not permitted, for example, to colour their hair an “unnatural” colour or to wear visible piercings or visible crosses. The Supreme Court concluded that the woman whom the case concerned had not been discriminated against unlawfully.


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