Muslim dentist loses discrimination suit

A Muslim woman from Kista north of Stockholm who was denied a job as a dentist after refusing to wear short-sleeved work clothes for religious reasons has lost her discrimination case against the Swedish Public Dental Service (Folktandvården).

“It’s incomprehensible,” the woman told The Local following the ruling by the Stockholm District Court.

Following the completion of her dental studies in January 2008, the now 29-year-old woman applied for a position with the public dental service in Stockholm.

During the hiring process, she was informed that the dental agency requires personnel to wear short-sleeved gowns when treating patients.

But the rules, put in place for hygiene reasons, came into conflict with her Muslim faith, which requires that she show as little skin as possible in public.

Looking for a solution, she said she would be willing to wear disposable arm sleeves over a long-sleeved gown.

“We presented evidence from Socialstyrelsen (National Board of Health and Welfare) that showed that using these disposable arm sleeves has the same level of hygiene,” she said.

After Folktandvården rejected the compromise, she sued the dental service for 150,000 kronor ($21,500) in damages alleging the organization’s refusal to accommodate her request to avoid short-sleeved work clothes amounted to discrimination.

But the Stockholm court sided with the dental service, finding that the decision not to hire the woman did not amount to discrimination.

In its ruling, the court cited health board regulations which recommend healthcare personnel use short-sleeved gowns when examining patients.

“Even it if means a disadvantaging of Muslims […], Folktandvården is required to follow the current guidelines for basic hygiene for the healthcare system,” the court wrote in its judgment.

The court also ordered the woman to pay 250,000 kronor to cover the dental service’s court costs, something which she said is not going to be easy.

“It’s pretty unacceptable. I’m not working right now and have no income,” she said, adding that she is currently supported by her father.

The 29-year-old told The Local she is considering an appeal, but has yet to make up her mind.