Muslim woman wins religious discrimination case

24th Aug 2018

Aqila Mumthaz

Farah Alhajeh, 24, went for a job interview with a company providing interpretation services. But one of the interviewers, a male manager, terminated the meeting when she declined to shake his hand, and instead placed her hand over her heart in greeting instead.

The Swedish Labour Court ruled that the company pay 40,000 Swedish Krona (£3,420) in damages for the discrimination she faced during a job interview on August 15.

The company claimed greetings other than handshakes were unacceptable, and that, Faith-based greetings are offensive, discriminate between sexes and can lead to workplace conflict. They also argued that its policy called for employees to treat all colleagues equally no matter their sex but admitted that it considered germophobia and autism legitimate reasons for not shaking hands.

Alhajeh argued that in her situations both men and women were present, and she greeted the women the same way, smiling and moving one hand to the heart, so as to avoid making the men feel discriminated. Despite this, when ruling on damages owed to her, the Court took into account the fact that it was impossible to determine if she would have been given the job had the interview been completed.

The Court said, in its ruling, that understanding her religious reasons for preferring such a greeting meant “there is no reason to perceive (it) as degrading or as a rejection and it would therefore not have to lead to conflicts in the workplace.”

Moreover, “Nothing indicated that the woman would not be able to function in a gender equal workplace or that her religion would cause obstacles or difficulties in the work or for the business”. She believes her story would help other Muslim that go through the same thing, by giving them hope.

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