A former Windsorite who owns a cutting-edge London, England hair salon says a lawsuit against her for not hiring a hijab-wearing Muslim will bankrupt her if it’s successful.
Sarah DesRosiers, who runs Wedge hair salon, is being sued by Bushra Noah, 19. Ms. Noah, a Muslim, said she was a victim of discrimination after failing to get a job at the salon.
Ms. DesRosiers said she wasn’t being discriminatory. She said Ms. Noah, who refused to remove her head scarf, wasn’t right for the job because she needs employees to show off their “funky” hairstyles to the public.
“Someone that can model their hair in the style of the salon, something that represents my team — more alternative,” said Ms. DesRosiers, 32. “The display of hair is of the utmost importance when the client walks in the salon. You create an atmosphere. The stylist would model the style of the salon. Because she was unwilling to display her hair, it would not work.” London media have reported extensively about Ms. DesRosiers and the lawsuit, and it has become a topic on blogs and websites across the globe.
According to The Evening Standard newspaper in London, Ms. Noah is suing Ms. DesRosiers for alleged religious discrimination. Ms. Noah is seeking more than $30,000 for hurt feelings and an unspecified sum for lost earnings.
The newspaper said Ms. Noah claims in a legal letter she was discriminated against, treated rudely at her interview and turned down for a job she was qualified for because of her head scarf.
The paper also said Ms. Noah had attended 25 interviews for hairdressing jobs without any success.
Ms. DesRosiers, who went to Europe in 1997 “looking for adventure,” opened Wedge about 18 months ago.
She said Ms. Noah came to her salon, in King’s Cross, North London, in March for a job interview.
Ms. DesRosiers said she was never “rude” to Ms. Noah, as Ms. Noah has claimed.
“I never refused her,” said Ms. DesRosiers. “I just never rung her back.”
Ultimately, said Ms. DesRosiers, she ended up not needing to fill the position.
“I just decided not having anyone,” she said.
But Ms. DesRosiers also said she runs a “very urban, edgy” salon.
“If you want something different, I can do it,” she said.
It’s an ideal that doesn’t jibe with subdued styles or hiding your hair, and having a stylist hiding her hair would send the wrong message to customers, she said.
Windsor Muslim Ali El-Sharif said Ms. DesRosiers, who runs a small business that depends on selling a certain image, makes a good argument.
He said the requirement that people practising their religion be provided “reasonable accommodation” is proportional to a company’s ability to do so.
“The ability to accommodate religious practices in the workplace varies depending on the nature and size of the business,” said Mr. El-Sharif, who is involved with a number of local Muslim groups.
“Reasonable religious accommodations should not be a burden that can potentially bankrupt a small business owner or prevent them from conducting an essential part of their business. This is a case of a small business owner making a fairly reasonable argument of not being able to accommodate this worker.”
He said there are many examples where refusing to hire a person wearing a religious head scarf would be discriminatory, such as someone applying for a job in education, an office, or the medical field.
“There are many poster cases for reasonable accommodation,” he said. “This is not one of them.”
Ms. DesRosiers said that if she loses the case and has to shell out the $30,000, it would mean the end of her salon.
“My business would fold,” she said. “I’d have to go bankrupt.”
She’s planning a fundraiser for December at a London pub, hoping she can raise the cash she needs to defend herself during a hearing scheduled for January. Ms. DesRosiers said she’s lost days from work trying to deal with the situation, and getting help from lawyers has already cost her about $3,000.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a November 14, 2007 article by Trevor Wilhelm in The Windsor Star