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Next stop, neutrality town!

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Legal news
calendar 25 February 2024
globus Sweden

A security company had a policy forbidding employees from wearing visible political, religious, or philosophical expressions at work. The Labour Court found that the policy did not discriminate a safety host who could not wear a traditional Muslim headscarf at work.

A woman worked as a safety host at a security company in the Stockholm Metro, where her work environment could be both threatening and violent. During the summer, she started wearing a headscarf at work. The company informed the employee that the headscarf was prohibited because of their neutrality policy.

The policy aimed to reduce the risk of threats and violence in the work environment, to maintain a neutral appearance to customers, and avoid social conflicts between employees. After this, the employee stopped working for the company.

Hazardous to wear headscarf

The policy was not directly or indirectly discriminatory. The reason was that all employees were treated the same way, and the court found no other measures that would reduce the risk of threats and violence.

The court noted that the company had a legitimate purpose for improving the work environment. It also showed that political or religious symbols could be provocative and result in a higher risk of threats or violence.

IUNO’s opinion

The judgement is the first of its kind from the Swedish Labour Court, but is not too surprising considering a recent judgment from the EU where a neutrality policy was enforceable. We have previously written about it here.

IUNO recommends companies carefully consider the need for a neutrality policy. The policy must be objectively justified, otherwise it may be unlawful discrimination.

[The Swedish Labour Court’s decision of 13 December 2023 in case 71/23]

A woman worked as a safety host at a security company in the Stockholm Metro, where her work environment could be both threatening and violent. During the summer, she started wearing a headscarf at work. The company informed the employee that the headscarf was prohibited because of their neutrality policy.

The policy aimed to reduce the risk of threats and violence in the work environment, to maintain a neutral appearance to customers, and avoid social conflicts between employees. After this, the employee stopped working for the company.

Hazardous to wear headscarf

The policy was not directly or indirectly discriminatory. The reason was that all employees were treated the same way, and the court found no other measures that would reduce the risk of threats and violence.

The court noted that the company had a legitimate purpose for improving the work environment. It also showed that political or religious symbols could be provocative and result in a higher risk of threats or violence.

IUNO’s opinion

The judgement is the first of its kind from the Swedish Labour Court, but is not too surprising considering a recent judgment from the EU where a neutrality policy was enforceable. We have previously written about it here.

IUNO recommends companies carefully consider the need for a neutrality policy. The policy must be objectively justified, otherwise it may be unlawful discrimination.

[The Swedish Labour Court’s decision of 13 December 2023 in case 71/23]

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

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