Swedish Muslim candidate who refused interview handshake wins case

Swedish Muslim candidate who refused interview handshake wins case

A Swedish Muslim woman has won compensation after a job interview ended when she refused to shake hands with a male interviewer.

Farah Alhajeh, 24, went for a role at translation company Semantix in her hometown Uppsala in May 2016.

When meeting her potential employer, Allajeh refused to shake the male interviewer’s hand due to religious reasons.

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She said she smiled and placed her hand on her heart whilst explaining her religious objection to physical contact with the opposite sex – The Telegraph reports.

Alhajeh said that, following this, interview was abruptly stopped, and she was shown to the lift.

"As soon as I got to the elevator, I cried," she told Swedish news channel SVT. “It was like a punch in the face,” she said.

“It was the first time someone reacted, and it was a really harsh reaction.”

Semantix said that, as a defender of sex equality, they could not hire someone who would react differently to men and women who offered a handshake as a greeting.

However, the Swedish labour court ruled that the company discriminated against Allajeh and ordered them to pay out 40,000 kronor (£3420), in compensation.

The court said: “the woman’s refusal to shake hands with people of the opposite sex is a religious manifestation that is protected under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” according to the ruling obtained by the New York Times.

The ruling added that, although Semantix was right to require employees treat men and women the same, it could not demand that greetings involved handshakes.

Handshakes are a traditional greeting in Europe. However, some Muslims avoid physical contact with members of the opposite sex apart from those in their immediate family.

The judgement found that company’s policy in demanding a specific greeting was detrimental to Muslims – the BBC reports.

Alhajeh told the BBC: "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.”

In 2016, a House of Commons report found Muslim women are Britain’s most disadvantaged jobseekers. The report found highly-qualified women are being written off due to crude assumptions.

Amanda Fone, Founder of f1 Recruitment, tells us: “It’s beyond time we pulled together as an industry to redress this imbalance and look to ‘attract, retain and grow’ when it comes to securing diverse talent.”


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