23 October 2016

Swiss court: you can’t be fired for wearing a headscarf

A Serbian Muslim woman has been awarded compensation by a Bern court after being sacked for wearing a headscarf. It is the first time in more than 25 years that a Swiss court has had to rule on whether wearing a headscarf in a private company was grounds for dismissal.

The 29-year-old had gone to court, supported by the Swiss Islamic Central Council, after an industrial laundry centre in Bern fired her after she started wearing a headscarf at the beginning of 2015, the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche reported on Sunday.

The company, citing health and safety regulations, gave the woman an ultimatum: lose her headscarf or her job. Although the company’s work regulations stipulated that employees must only tie their hair back, the company fired the woman a few days later.

The district court for Bern-Mittelland has now ruled the dismissal unfair and awarded the woman three months’ wages and compensation of CHF8,000 ($8,050).

The judges pointed to freedom of religion and belief, as anchored in the Swiss constitution, which protected the right to wear a headscarf – including during employment in the private sector. [swissinfo] Read more