Workplace Discrimination: Religious Attire in the Workplace
Globalization has enhanced the movement of people across international borders. People travel for various reasons including education, medication, leisure, and employment. As workers mainly from developing countries gain easier access to developed countries’ labor markets, the modern workplace becomes more diverse. The modern workplace consists of diverse races, ethnicities, cultures, and religions among other demographics. However, while other organizations strive to adapt to these changes in order to reap benefits of diversity, others view it as a platform to perpetrate workplace injustices like discrimination. Workplace discrimination is unfair treatment at work basing on attributes like age, race, gender, sexual orientation, political opinion, and religion (Ghumman & Ryan, 2013). Religion, especially religious attire, is a common basis of workplace discrimination.
There are numerous cases where people are denied job opportunities or get termination due to their religious beliefs and related practices like donning religious attires. For instance, the Independent shared a story about a woman who was fired from work because she wore hijab (Revesz, 2016). Najaf Khan, who had just been employed at the Fair Oaks Dental Care Clinic in Virginia, wore hijab on her third day at work. Surprisingly, as she told Fox News, her boss pulled her aside and ordered her to take off the hijab in order to maintain a “neutral environment”. The event attracted a fair share of attention including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) which ordered the Fair Oak dental clinic to reinstate Khan. The organization also called for the compensation of the victim for the economic and emotional suffering. Prior to this case, the US Supreme Court had demonstrated its support for another young female Muslim, Samantha Elauf, in a similar case. In 2008, Ms. Elauf lost an employment opportunity at AberCrombie & Fitch because she wore hijab (Revesz, 2016). The company argued that the headscarf was against the store’s looks policy for sales persons while Elauf’s argument based on her civil rights. In 2015, Elauf won the case at the US Supreme Court.
A survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2017 indicated that approximately 51% of the Muslim women in the USA wear hijabs either full-time or regularly (Ghumman & Ryan 2013). The word “hijab” is derived from the Arabic verb “hajaba” which means to cover. The hijab attire is in line with the Islamic religion practices of wearing modest clothes. While some women view the hijab as a religious symbol according to Qur’an teachings, others consider it as a cultural symbol (Ghumman & Ryan, 2013). Either way, the attire is important to those who wear it and it should not warrant unfair treatment at work and anywhere else. A research conducted by Ghumman and Ryan indicated that women who wear hi jabs experience interpersonal discrimination in the form of “perceived negativity and less perceived interest” (2013).
As globalization facilitates the movement of people across international borders, workplaces are increasingly becoming diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, and culture. This has posed cohesion challenges where workers are being discriminated for who they are. For instance, while Muslim women attach great value to their religious attire hijab, some individuals at the workplace use it as a basis for unfair treatment. Muslim women who wear hijabs have been denied jobs or terminated while a good number attract negative perceptions at work. Discriminating people on the basis of their religious beliefs is violation of human rights. It is therefore important to accommodate people from all walks of life and respect civil and human rights beyond workplaces.
Ghumman, S. & Ryan, A.M. (2013). Not Welcome here: Discrimination Towards Women who Wear the Muslim Headscarf. Sage Pub Journals. Retrieved from DOI: 10.1177/0018726712469540
Revesz, R. (2016, Aug 4). Woman ‘fired for wearing hijab’ as boss tells her to ‘keep religion out of office’. The Independent. News. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/woman-fired-hijab-virginia-fairfax-dentist-cair-anti-muslim-discrimination-a7172531.html