Local Government Employment Review: Nursery school fends off Muslim discrimination claim

Every careful employer should be aware that the duty not to discriminate arises at the very moment when a prospective employee applies for a job. In one case, a nursery school was accused of prejudice by a Muslim interviewee who claimed that she had been refused permission to wear her flowing jilbab to work.

The woman said that, during her interview, she had been told that her jilbab was too long and that she would need to wear a shorter version. Asserting that she had been less favourably treated due to her faith, she took her case to an Employment Tribunal (ET), claiming indirect religious discrimination.

The ET rejected her account of what was said during the interview and ruled that it would in any event have dismissed her complaint. In rejecting her challenge to that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that there was nothing wrong or unreasonable about the nursery’s dress policy.

Its manager had explained that there were health and safety reasons why the woman could not wear a full-length jilbab. There were concerns that it would pose a tripping hazard and the same ‘across the board’ policy would have been applied to anyone else wearing very long clothing. The nursery employed four Muslim staff at the time and at no stage during the interview had the woman indicated that she was offended by the suggestion that she wear a shorter jilbab.

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