What Is Indirect Discrimination
A Swedish Muslim woman has won £3,420 (40,000 kronor) compensation after her job interview ended after
she refused to shake the hand of a male interviewer for religious reasons.
With handshakes being a traditional component to meetings within Europe, some Muslims avoid physical contact with members of the opposite sex except those in their immediate family.
Enrique Garcia is an Employment Law Consultant for the ELAS Group. He says that the issue here is indirect discrimination.
“All applicants are protected from discrimination on the grounds of the 9 protected characteristics: age, race, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership and pregnancy/maternity. When it comes to religion there are four main types of discrimination: direct, indirect, harassment and victimisation.”
“It would appear in the case of Farah Alhajeh that the issue here is indirect discrimination, where a policy, practice or criterion puts a group with a particular protected characteristic at a disadvantage”.
“Shaking hands within the interview was clearly a requirement as the interview was terminated when Farah refused to shake hands. It was also clear that Farah didn’t refuse to shake hands out of rudeness or impoliteness – she places her hand on her heart as a symbol or sincerity which is also not uncommon”.
“To terminate the interview in this way shows that it was a requirement to shake hands and this rule puts people of particular religious faith at a disadvantage as it made it impossible to pass the interview. There was no reason to why it was necessary to shake hands. Shaking hands is a symbol of trust and sincerity however Farah placing her hand on her heart did just that as well”.
So, what can employers take away from this?
“Employers need to make sure that their managers and employees are aware of what constitutes as indirect and direct discrimination. This can be achieved by ensuring they receive equality and diversity training regularly. We also recommend reviewing your company’s recruitment process and if it doesn’t already, a robust equality and recruitment process needs to be in place”.