The 24-year-old, who was going for a job as an interpreter in Uppsala, Sweden, refused to shake the hand of her male interviewer.
The interview was abruptly cut short and with it, seemingly, her job prospects.
But the case was picked up by Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) and it today (August 15) won a key judgement.
Sweden’s Labour Court ruled the woman was indirectly discriminated against and ordered the company to pay her 40,000 kr (€3,829) in compensation.
“The Labour Court has concluded that the woman’s refusal to shake the hand of the opposite sex is such a religious manifestation that it is protected by Article 9 of the European Convention [on Human Rights].
“The policy of the company is particularly detrimental to persons of certain religion, namely Muslims, who apply a ban on handshaking between women and men that are not closely-related.”
Instead of a handshake, the woman’s custom is instead to put her hand on her heart as a way of greeting.
The company argued it was against the practice because it would create differences and conflict between male and female colleagues.
“This is a difficult issue and that’s why we considered it important to have a court trial,” said Martin Mörk, director of DO’s process unit.
“The judgment includes careful consideration taking into account the employer’s interests, the individual’s right to bodily integrity, and the importance of the state to maintain protection for religious freedom.”
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