Local Teenager "Discriminated against" for Headscarf

Hairdresser says essence of work is hair display

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  Bushra Noah, a teenager who lives in Acton is taking the owner of a London hair salon to an industrial tribunal because she says the fact that she wears a headscarf cost her a job. Sarah Desrosiers, owner of Wedge salon in King's Cross, has said she will fight the case and insisted she had not discriminated against Ms Noah, a 19-year old Muslim who is claiming direct and indirect religious discrimination.

Ms Desrosiers said she would expect a hairdresser to show her hair at all times while working and a headscarf would conflict with working as a stylist.  She said it was an "absolutely basic" requirement of the job that customers should be able to see their stylist's hair. Her salon is classed as "alternative" and specialises in "urban, funky punky" cuts.

Ms Noah said wearing a headscarf was central to her religion but would not have affected her ability to carry out her job. She said in a radio interview on BBC London today: "I'm hoping for her to understand that she can't get away with treating people like that. And just because I wear a headscarf doesn't mean... I can't work there."  

Ms Noah, an experienced stylist, has been rejected for 25 jobs and had been invited to the salon for a trial day in March after sending Ms Desrosiers her CV.

Yesterday, she said: "The advertised job of junior assistant stylist was perfect for me. I did NVQs in hairdressing at college and have 18 months experience at a salon in Ealing Broadway. On the phone, Sarah sounded very keen on me because of my experience and qualifications. I sent her my CV and she invited me in a few days later for a trial day."

She claims that when she arrived she was discriminated against and treated rudely after Ms Desrosiers realised she wore a headscarf. Ms Noah said: "When I got there, she looked at me in shock. She started making excuses about wanting someone who lived locally but I knew it was the headscarf.   "She kept repeating 'You really should have told me'. She asked if I wore it all the time and I said 'Yes'. She asked if I would take it off for work and I said 'No'."  

The teenager said: "Wearing a headscarf is very important for my religion and non-negotiable. It is about showing your modest side and being respectful in front of others, particularly males.  

"I am British-born and know the urban, funky look. Just because I wear a headscarf does not mean that I do not follow the latest trends and fashions. Afterwards, I felt so devastated and depressed. It has always been my ambition to be a hairdresser but I have given up now after being rejected 25 times. It is always because of my headscarf whether they say it or not."   Ms Noah's case will be heard in January at an employment tribunal over three days.

Ms Desrosiers said she was concerned her business would collapse if Ms Noah's claim for £15,000 - for injury to her feelings, plus an unspecified amount for loss of earnings - was successful.

November 10, 2007