• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Nursery assistant wins reprieve over veil sacking

Dan MacGuill · 19 Mar 2013, 18:45

Published: 19 Mar 2013 12:31 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Mar 2013 18:45 GMT+01:00

Fatima Afif, a nursery assistant sacked in 2008 by the ‘Baby Loup’ creche for refusing to remove her Muslim headscarf at work, won an appeal against her dismissal on Tuesday.

In delivering their verdict judges at Paris's 'Cour de cassation' - France's highest appeals court, said her firing "constituted discrimination based on religious convictions and must be declared invalid."

The privately-run daycare centre in the Yvelines suburb of Paris has rules requiring its staff to maintain “philosophical, political and denominational neutrality” at work.

However, the court found on Tuesday that because 'Baby Loup' is a private establishment, and it was not an "urgent professional necessity" that Afif remove her veil,  France's "principle of secularism does not apply."

The principle cannot be invoked to deny "employees of private companies that do not perform a public service... the protections guaranteed them under the work code," the appeals court ruled.

The nursery was also ordered to pay €2,500 in compensation to their former employee, according to Le Parisien newspaper.

The case however is not yet concluded and will be re-heard before a lower court of appeal in Paris at a later date.

Michel Henry, a lawyer for Afif had previously argued that the crèche’s internal rules should be trumped by “the exercise of a fundamental freedom, the freedom of religion,” he was quoted as saying by French television TF1 on Tuesday.

Before Tuesday's ruling, Afif had had her appeal against the dismissal rejected on two occasions.

In 2010 a labour relations board found that her sacking was justified by “blatant and repeated insubordination.”

An appeals court in 2011 agreed, stating that young children in the crèche “should not be confronted by ostentatious displays of religious affiliation.”

Story continues below…

The wearing of religious symbols or clothing in public (state-run) schools has been illegal in France since 2004.

Although ‘Baby Loup’ is a private establishment, and despite having an overwhelmingly Muslim clientele, one of its lawyers, Richard Malka, had argued it has the right to deem itself a “secular business". He believes Afif’s religious freedom should not be considered more important than the culture of the crèche.

Since the case emerged in 2008, it has attracted the attention of both religious freedom advocates, and defenders of France’s tradition of strict secularism (known as ‘laïcité’), such as current Interior Minister and Socialist deputy Manuel Valls, who had publicly supported the crèche.

On Tuesday Valls told France's National Assembly he regretted the court's ruling, claiming that it "calls into doubt the principle of secularism," according to TF1.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
15-year-old French student charged over attack threat
Paris Gendarmes during a previous terror-related arrest in May 2016. File photo: Matthieu Alexandre/AFP

A 15-year-old high school student was charged and held Friday on suspicion of wanting to commit a terror attack.

Paris luxury hotel told to pay up after guest molests cleaner

A cleaner who was molested at a Paris luxury hotel by a Qatari guest has reportedly been awarded €57,000.

Frenchman leading Brexit negotiations starts new job
Photo: AFP

Frenchman Michel Barnier officially starts work as the European Commission's Brexit negotiator on Saturday in an appointment that British media called a "declaration of war".

VIDEO: Frenchman goes on iPhone-smashing rampage
Photo: YouTube Screenshot

Meet France's angriest Apple customer.

Nuit Blanche: Get set for an all-night party in Paris
Photo: La Nuit Blanche

Will YOU be heading down to the Seine on Saturday?

France told there's no more money for TGVs
High speed TGV trains parked in Lille. Photo: AFP

A report from the French senate has recommended that three planned high speed rail networks be scrapped.

Frenchman surfs again after shark bites off his leg
All photos: AFP

Meet the amputee Frenchman who is surfing again he was attacked by a shark.

Paris motorists to fund city's public transport system
Photo: AFP

Motorists in the Ile-de-France region will be hit by a tax rise in order to finance the city's trains and buses.

More French women becoming mothers after 40
French mums are getting older. File photo: Pexels

French mums are getting older, but the overall birthrate has fallen.

Paris police bust high-rolling gang of pram thieves
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

A gang of thieves has been caught after they pinched an estimated €100,000 worth of prams.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
It's official: France finally gets its new map
National
VIDEOS: France's raunchiest TV commercials of all time
Sexism at the wheel: France wants more women drivers
Society
Lifestyle
VIDEO: Is life on a French café terrace really this bad?
Society
Only in France: 'Drive slowly - grape juice on the roads'
Society
Saudi princess 'told guard to kill Paris decorator'
Education
Why are foreign students in France 'Europe's unhappiest'?
Education
The troubles with French universities laid bare
Culture
The crazy French writing phrases you can't get your head around
Features
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
'Stop telling immigrants to be French and help it happen'
Society
Take the test: How far have you assimilated into French culture?
Lifestyle
Eleven things you should know before moving to Paris
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
2,735
jobs available