Editions:  Austria · Denmark · France · Germany · Italy · Norway · Spain · Sweden · Switzerland

Woman wins handshake discrimination case in Sweden

Share this article

Woman wins handshake discrimination case in Sweden
File photo of two people shaking hands. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
14:17 CEST+02:00
A Muslim woman whose job interview was cut short when it became known that she would not shake hands with male colleagues for religious reasons, was indirectly discriminated against, the Swedish Labour Court has ruled.

The 24-year-old woman had been called to a job interview in Uppsala with a company providing interpretation services via telephone or video, as The Local reported last year. But when she declined to shake hands with one of the interviewers, a male manager, he terminated the meeting.

Sweden's Discrimination Ombudsman took the case to the Labour Court last year, arguing that the woman, who would not have had to meet customers in her role, had been discriminated against.

The company admitted that it considered germophobia and autism legitimate reasons for not shaking hands, but argued that its policy called for employees to treat all colleagues equally no matter their sex.

Refusing to shake hands with colleagues of the opposite sex went against that policy, it said.

It also argued that the policy was not discriminatory against Muslims in general, because the majority of Muslims do shake hands with both men and women.

The woman herself argued that in situations where both men and women are present, she greets women in the same way – by smiling and moving one hand to the heart – to not make the men feel excluded.

The Labour Court stated in its ruling, seen by The Local, that understanding her religious reasons for preferring such a greeting meant "there is no reason to perceive (it) as degrading or as a rejection and it would therefore not have to lead to conflicts in the workplace".

It further wrote nothing indicated that the woman "would not be able to function in a gender equal workplace or that her religion would cause obstacles or difficulties in the work or for the business".

It also criticized the policy "for excluding those people who interpret Islam in the same way" as the woman, but did note that the employer's intent had not been to discriminate against her.

When ruling on damages owed to the woman, it took that into account and the fact that it was impossible to determine if she would have been given the job had the interview been completed.

The Labour Court therefore ruled that the woman was to receive 40,000 kronor (approximately $4,350) as compensation, half of what the Discrimination Ombudsman had asked for.

Get notified about breaking news on The Local

Share this article

The Local is not responsible for content posted by users.
Trilby16 - 15 Aug 2018 17:19
The Labour Court erred.
George from the US - 15 Aug 2018 18:59
I'm ignorant of Swedish law and could well be wrong, but this case seems both simple and rightly decided. The only source of conflict apparent is the interviewer's preemptive action.
Katrina from US - 15 Aug 2018 21:18
Anyone who comes from abroad no matter religion must adapt to Sweden, Not otherwise! If in a job interview one shakes hands for greeting, then be it! Anyone who comes to the Western world to live just must adapt. I am sorry if the company ha to pay for anything. Regarding the woman...well ..No Comments!
Annie F - 17 Aug 2018 00:12
that is total bull excrement!!!!

that woman should not have gotten a dime.

if other Muslims DO shake hands with people - then an exception should not have been made for this one person.
Annie F - 17 Aug 2018 00:13
if that company hired her - i hope they terminate her quickly.
Kai - 18 Aug 2018 09:18
Great decision, good to see that non-discrimination is still being enforced by the state.
jean francois - 18 Aug 2018 09:51
We are new to Sweden and coming from France. Muslim in France are pushed very hard by Saudi, Qatari and Algerian preachers to be assertive against non-believers and "weak" Muslims, and are forcing entire neighborhoods to refuse French laws. Their target is to get islamic law recognised, not become European citizens. In other words, they are here to fight.
I think this decision in Sweden is non-sense and very dangerous for the future.
Become a Member or sign-in to leave a comment.