Religion at work
The Federal Constitution enshrines religious freedom, whereby everyone is free to join or not join a religion and practice it. This includes the right to wear a headscarf and to engage in religious practices such as fasting or prayer.
Protection of personality
The employer is obliged to protect the personality of his or her employees, of which religious freedom is part. However, by virtue of his or her duty of fidelity, the employee must respect his or her contractual obligations and the directives of his or her employer. His/her religious freedom is limited when it affects the employer's overriding interests.
The most important Christian religious holidays often fall on public holidays in the cantons concerned. However, these holidays do not necessarily reflect the religious diversity in Switzerland.
The employer must, in principle, grant the employee the time necessary to attend a religious holiday that does not fall on a public holiday, under certain conditions. The employer may refuse to grant such leave in specific situations.
The situation can be tricky when an employee's religion requires him or her to say a certain number of daily prayers at set times or attend a religious service each week that falls on a workday. Such absences can be disruptive to the organization or the smooth operation of the business. In this case, the employer's interests may outweigh those of the employee. A situation to be managed on a case-by-case basis.
Certain religions impose fasting periods on their followers, such as Ramadan. When the employee is weakened by fasting and is no longer able to work properly for this reason, the employer can and must react. Otherwise, the employer may be held liable in the event of an accident.
Veil and ostentatious signs
The employer is in principle obliged to accept the dress of the employee, in particular when it reflects his beliefs. However, the wearing of a veil or other ostentatious signs can lead to tension between colleagues or with the company's customers.
This situation is particularly delicate and the balance between freedom of belief and the company's interest in preserving the work environment or customer relations is not easy to find. The employer may be liable if he or she dismisses the employee in such situations or if he or she unjustifiably refuses to allow a female employee to wear the veil.