PART 2, Continued from PART 1, posted on June 26, 2017.
What about wearing religious symbols at work? Is this subject to a specific legal framework?
The French Constitutional Council (“Conseil Constitutionnel”) reminds that the neutrality of the State (and its agents) derives from the principle of secularism, which is recognized by the declaration of human and citizens’ rights (“déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen”) and by the Constitution of 4 October 1958 which provides that “France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic”.
Private companies and their employees are not subject to the same restrictions as the State and its agents. This is borne out by so-called “oriented” companies (eg educational institutions or denominational charities) where religious beliefs are freely expressed.
Can the employer put a limit on the religious expression of his employees (especially regarding clothing) and how can he do so?
The judges of the Cour de Cassation reminded that restrictions on religious freedom are possible (in this case, by banning headscarves), on condition that they be “justified by the nature of the task to be performed and proportionate to the intended purpose” (for example if the employee is in contact with parents and young children in the framework of social work without distinction of political or denominational opinion).
The El-Khomri Act (August 8, 2016) continued this search for a compromise, specifying in Article L.1321-2-1 of the Labor Code that the internal rules and procedures of the company could include “the principle of