Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois has clarified her comments on how the secular charter would apply to the private sector, acknowledging that if private businesses adopted it they could face legal action from employees.

The PQ leader said on Monday that private companies would be welcome to adopt similar policies to her party's proposed secular charter, which would only apply to government-run institutions. 

Bill 60, which died when the provincial election was called nearly two weeks ago, would have banned public-sector workers from wearing overt religious symbols such as hijabs, kippas, turbans or ostentatious crucifixes.

On Tuesday, Marois clarified her stance, emphasizing that no private businesses would be obliged to comply with the charter.

But she added that the secular legislation would include rules about reasonable accommodation, and if the private sector felt inspired by those rules then it would be welcome to adopt them. 

Legal expert predicts charter challenge

Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey said if any private businesses attempted to limit the reasonable accommodation of their workers' religious rights, they could be challenged under the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"Not only are you going to exclude certain types of immigrants, in particular Muslim women and Sikh men and religious Jewish men, from employment in the public sector, but you're also going to try to get them out of the private one," Grey said.

Marois said any discussion of how rules inspired by the proposed secular charter might apply to private companies is purely hypothetical, because the charter itself hasn't been passed into law.

With files from Canadian Press