Recently, the “War on Terror” in the Middle East has caused the largest influx of Middle Eastern refugees to the Unites States and Europe in history. Although almost all refugees are simply trying to make a better life for themselves and not creating problems, a large number of “western world” citizens have created a stereotype, grouping the terrorist groups in the Middle East into the same group as those who are Muslim.
As xenophobia seems to be plaguing Europe and the United States, we may see more companies restricting certain groups of society from being hired.
While this problem is completely unjustified, it is not a new problem for Europe and America. From 1750 through the 1800’s and into the 1900’s, Italians, Irish, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Polish and Hispanics have all been unjustly discriminated against when their number of immigrants to the Unites States rose. Similarly, when numerous Asian and African countries’ immigration numbers to Europe rose, discrimination against those groups also rose. The refugees of the Middle East are facing the same type of discrimination today.
After working at a security company, G4S, in Belgium for three years, Samira Achbita was suddenly fired in 2006 when she came to work wearing a headscarf. Outraged, Achbita decided to file a lawsuit against the company, believing it was unconstitutional for them to fire her on account of her religious beliefs. Since 2006, this same case has not yet been closed.
When they were unable to decide whether or not the company was justified, the Belgian court decided to hand over the case to the European Court Justice. Since then, the ECJ has come up with ways the company could be justified and other ways that the company would be considered unconstitutional.
If a company had an internal rule that employees had to dress politically, religiously and philosophically neutral, the ECJ says that it may be justified in firing its employees when they wear any religious signs or symbols. If, however, the company fires its employees without having these neutral rules, indicating that there is discrimination taking place, the company is unjustified and considered unconstitutional.
A similar problem in France took place with a different company during the same time. In both cases, the ECJ was unable to decide whether the companies had those internal rules, and therefore couldn’t help Achbita. Instead, they gave the entire European Union a set standard of what was considered unconstitutional and turned the cases back over to those individual states’ courts. From there, those courts would decide whether or not the companies were behaving unconstitutionally based off of the evidence given and the internal rules of the companies.
Although it’s not clear whether or not either company in France or Belgium ended up being justified, Europe now faces a serious behind-the-scenes problem that some people have noticed. When the European Court Justice created this new precedent, it said that the company could only constitutionally fire employees when they weren’t following the rules of the company. Now the companies know that they have a loophole to exploit if they wish to discriminate against people of other religions.
As xenophobia seems to be plaguing Europe and the United States, we may see more companies restricting certain groups of society from being hired. While in Europe, companies can use rules to restrict rights, all it is, is a shield protecting those who truly are prejudiced against people of certain ethnicities and religions.
News Editor: Elizabeth Needham, Emanuel Abebe
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