No review for hand-shake discrimination case

The Swedish Justice Ombudsman will not look at a case in western Sweden where a man was paid damages for not being given an internship after he refused to shake a female boss's hand for religious reasons.

The internship candidate himself had turned the case over to Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen – DO), but Trollhättan municipality managed to avoid a probe by paying him 30,000 kronor ($4,500).

The case has received widespread attention, however, with the municipality since receiving about 100 critical emails, reported the Ttela news site. The case was also reported to the Justice Ombudsman (Justitieombudsmannen – JO), but the agency has now decided not to review it.

The incident stemmed from an office visit by a man who had been offered an internship with the integration division at Trollhättan municipality.

When the man was set to meet a female supervisor at the office, he refused to shake her hand, explaining his religion forbade him from shaking hands with women unless he washed his hands directly afterwards.

The female supervisor then reportedly told the man that he could not intern at the office if he was not comfortable shaking everybody’s hand. She also allegedly added that the office had hand sanitizer that he could use.

While the incident was later reported to the Equality Ombudsman, the national office that investigates suspected cases of discrimination, the case was settled before the ombudsman began its investigation, with Trollhättan municipality choosing to pay damages to the man.

“By law, a person who feels they’ve been disadvantaged because of their religion has a right to damages. We made a mistake, we took responsibility for it, and the person was compensated,” municipal spokesman Said Niklund told the TTELA newspaper.

Last month, it was reported that the incident had had repercussions at the workplace, damaging the morale among the staff at Trollhättan’s integration division.

TT/The Local/at

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