What to do if I was told by an employer that I would only get the job if I removed my headscarf but I am a Muslim woman that covers her hair?

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What to do if I was told by an employer that I would only get the job if I removed my headscarf but I am a Muslim woman that covers her hair?

I applied for a job at a department store and had 3 interviews. I am a Muslim woman that wears a religious veil to cover my hair. In one of the interviews I was told that I would be able to get the job the very next day if I removed my headscarf. The interviewer also said to me that even though the other managers “won’t say anything” that they are thinking the same thing about my veil; they would not want to hire a Muslim woman because for the Guest Ambassador position I would be stood at the front of the store.

Asked on August 4, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You may wish to contract the state or city equal or civil rights division: you may have a claim for religious-based job discrimination, which is illegal. An employer may not discriminate against an employee or prospective employee due to his/her religion or religious observances, unless there is some legitimate, objective reason, typically safety related: for example, it may be possible for an employer to not hire a woman who must wear a headscarf as a heavy machinery operator, if there is a risk the scarf could become entangled in the machinery and if a "no  headress rule" is applied equally to all staff for that reason. But in the situation you describe, there does not seem to be a valid reason for the exclusion of your headdress, so you may have a legal claim.


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