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Every beard you take

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Legal news
calendar 10 March 2024
globus Norway

A job applicant did not want to shave his beard as part of his religious practice. The company had not discriminated against the job applicant by hiring someone else, as the other person was better qualified.

During a job interview at a physiotherapy studio, a practising Sikh was asked if he would shave his beard. The company noted that some customers had special dress code requirements. The job applicant could not shave due to his religion.

In a follow-up email, the company again insisted that the job applicant's appearance with a turban and beard would not align with many of the customers' preferences. The company eventually hired someone else.

Knowledge is power

The Tribunal found that the job applicant had not been discriminated against based on religion because the person hired was better qualified.

Although there were clear indications that the company did not choose the job applicant because of his religion, it was not proven that the religion was given decisive weight. The job applicant had a significantly lower level of education and work experience than the person hired. However, the company did unlawfully ask the job applicant about his religion during the interview.

IUNO’s opinion

The decision illustrates that discrimination only occurs when the company has placed decisive weight on a discriminatory factor.

IUNO recommends that companies are cautious when implementing bans on religious symbols. Such bans must be justified, limited to what is strictly necessary and applied in a general and in an indiscriminate manner to all employees.

[The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal’s decision of 14 February 2024 in case 22/1129]

During a job interview at a physiotherapy studio, a practising Sikh was asked if he would shave his beard. The company noted that some customers had special dress code requirements. The job applicant could not shave due to his religion.

In a follow-up email, the company again insisted that the job applicant's appearance with a turban and beard would not align with many of the customers' preferences. The company eventually hired someone else.

Knowledge is power

The Tribunal found that the job applicant had not been discriminated against based on religion because the person hired was better qualified.

Although there were clear indications that the company did not choose the job applicant because of his religion, it was not proven that the religion was given decisive weight. The job applicant had a significantly lower level of education and work experience than the person hired. However, the company did unlawfully ask the job applicant about his religion during the interview.

IUNO’s opinion

The decision illustrates that discrimination only occurs when the company has placed decisive weight on a discriminatory factor.

IUNO recommends that companies are cautious when implementing bans on religious symbols. Such bans must be justified, limited to what is strictly necessary and applied in a general and in an indiscriminate manner to all employees.

[The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal’s decision of 14 February 2024 in case 22/1129]

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