France and the Islamic veil – again: Baby-Loup

In a rather lower-profile case than SAS v France, on 25 June the full court of the French Cour de Cassation handed down its final ruling in the Baby-Loup case.

As we noted previously, the Social Chamber of the Court of Cassation had held that the dismissal of Ms Fatima Afif from her job as deputy director of the private Baby-Loup nursery in Chanteloup-les-Vignes for refusing to remove her veil at work amounted to religious discrimination and awarded her damages of 2,500 euros. However, the full court has overturned the earlier ruling and has held that the dismissal of Ms Afif for refusing to remove her veil was justified.

Baby-Loup had adopted internal rules which stated that the principle of freedom of conscience and religion could not be an obstacle to compliance with the principles of laïcité and neutrality that applied to the activities of the nursery; and the Court noted that the Labour Code provides that a private company or association may restrict the freedom of employees to manifest religious beliefs, if justified by “the nature of the task at hand” and if the measure is “proportionate to the aim pursued.” It concluded that that the restriction Ms Afif’s freedom to manifest

“… was not of a general nature, but was sufficiently precise, justified by the nature of the tasks performed by the employees of the association and proportionate to the aim pursued” [ne présentait pas un caractère général, mais était suffisamment précise, justifiée par la nature des tâches accomplies par les salariés de l’association et proportionnée au but recherché].

So that’s that, unless (as Stephanie Berry suggests) the case goes to Strasbourg. But in view of the judgment in SAS it seems hardly worth it.

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