A Swedish Muslim woman has won a discrimination case after a company ended her job interview because she didn’t want to shake the hand of the employer during a job interview.
24-year-old Farah Alhajeh had been invited for a job interview in Uppsala as an interpreter. When she arrived, she informed the male interviewer that she didn’t want to shake hands because of religious rules.
She greeted the interviewer by placing her hand over her heart, which is common among Muslims. Some of their rules avoid physical contact with the opposite sex, except their immediate family members.
Farah told the Swedish Court that the interviewer, who is an executive at the company, became red in the face and said: “Here, everyone must shake hands.”
She also claims that she was then frogmarched out of the office and was told that the job interview was already over.
“As soon as I got into the lift I started crying,” she expressed. “It had never happened to me before. It didn’t feel good at all. It was awful.”
That’s when she decided to report the company to Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman, and her case was taken to court.
“Of course it’s reasonable for an employer to ask employees to treat all colleagues the same, but you have to be able to greet people in different ways,” said a Discrimination Ombudsman spokesperson.
The Labor Court ruled in Farah’s favor and ordered the company to pay her £3,426 in compensation.
“I believe in God, which is very rare in Sweden… and I should be able to do that and be accepted as long as I’m not hurting anyone,” she expressed.
“In my country… you cannot treat women and men differently. I respect that. That’s why I don’t have any physical contact with men or with women.
I can live by the rules of my religion and also at the same time follow the rules of the country that I live in.”
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