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Belgian Hema store wrong to sack headscarf-wearing worker

Wednesday 02 January 2013

A Belgian branch of Dutch department store Hema was wrong to sack a woman worker for wearing a headscarf, a Belgian industrial tribunal ruled on Wednesday.

The woman had worked for the store in Genk for two months wearing a headscarf but was then sacked for refusing to remove it after complaints from customers.

The tribunal ordered Hema to pay the 21-year-old woman six month’s salary - €9,000 – in compensation.

The company has since drawn up formal clothing requirements for its Belgian stores, news agency ANP said.

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

When I was growing up in the 60s no respectable woman would be seen in public without a scarf covering her hair.
Why is it such a big deal now that those women are muslim rather than Christian?

By Donaugh | 2 January 2013 9:32 PM

Customers actually complained that she was wearing a headscarf? Unbelievable!

By Bob | 3 January 2013 8:36 AM

Sad that the BE Hema had to be forced to act as an equal non-discriminatory employer. Did the woman get her job back too? I sure hope so, and I hope she proudly wears her headscarf every single day to work.

By Sara | 3 January 2013 9:40 AM

The woman works for two months then gets 6 months worth of pay. Women are beautiful why cover their heads? Unless like my Aunt used to wear a scarf when passenger in an open car so her hair doesn't get blown around that should be the only exception when braving the elements but in an indoor situation I like looking at a persons face and eyes to make proper communication contact.

By Ronald Martens | 3 January 2013 11:29 AM

I don't see this as a case of discrimination.

After all, she was hired in the first place: they didn't have a problem with her scarf, otherwise she wouldn't have been hired in the first place (which is illegal, but companies always cover that by saying they don't think said person is motivated enough or anything). She was undoubtly wearing a scarf back then.

So, the only conclusion is: she was fired simply to meet customer demands. And while that means the customers were discriminatory, the company wasn't: the company's reason was "we fired her to meet customer demands", after all, not "we personally don't want her wearing a scarf".

By Someone | 3 January 2013 4:43 PM

Employers should be able to enforce dress codes in offices and especially stores that deal with the public, as long as they are not degrading. And majority (not minority) standards should be used to define what is degrading and what is not.

By A.L. | 3 January 2013 5:49 PM

Headscarf is not religious - it is political! Koran does not require it. It is the radical islam which is advocating and forcing it, as a symbol of women's inferiority to men! Ad women who defend it? They are just slaves, unaware of their slave-ness.

By Piotr | 3 January 2013 7:17 PM

Piotr, you are wrong.
And anyway, it is up to women what they wear. You would not call women wearing a short skirt, sluts, so why would you patronize women who wear headscarves??

By Saladin | 4 January 2013 3:18 PM

No Saladin you are wrong. In places like Jeddah or Dubai it is NOT up to women what they wear. Even non-Muslim women are forced to wear a head dress there.

By Michael K | 4 January 2013 4:30 PM

HEMA BE are totally wrong.
People should be able to wear what they like. We should embrace our differences.
We are a global society.

By Expatio | 4 January 2013 5:09 PM

Bravo, Piotr!
Completely support your comments.

By ceye | 5 January 2013 1:52 PM

It is you who is wrong by comparing Jeddah or Dubai to HEMA..complete nonsense...
You can see the patronising bigots coming out as soon as headscarves or Islam is mentioned...keep foaming at the mouth...it will not go away...

By Saladin | 7 January 2013 8:50 AM

And Michael, it just shows your ignorance about Dubai, and dress code for women..
Have you been there lately? I have.....

By Saladin | 7 January 2013 9:46 AM

I am a customer and I demand that all women in Hema should wear a very short skirt, would they do that? dont think so,

By Ton | 7 January 2013 11:04 AM

HEMA sticking to its principles.

By Peter Karofsky | 7 January 2013 2:03 PM

@Saladin I could really not care less if women chose to wear a headdress or not and whether it's in a Belgian HEMA or H&S in Jeddah for that matter. I agree it was wrong for HEMA to sack this worker. My grandmother was a devote ROMAN CATHOLIC who lived the last 40 years of her life in Canada. She chose to wear a headdress when she went to Catholic Church. Nobody forced her to. It was her choice. I lived and worked in Saudi and saw how all women there (including expats) were not given an option to wear a headdress/forced to wear selective clothing.

By Michael K | 7 January 2013 4:28 PM

HEMA hired her, with nothing in their dress code about wearing a headscarf, and knowing that she chooses to wear a headscarf as part of observing her religion. Then they fire her because some customers complain? No. Wrong. And if I worked there I would have worn a headscarf in solidarity. And if I lived there I would be complaining to HEMA now.

Women have the right to choose what they wear in this country, and in Belgium. ALL women.

I do wish men would stop worrying about whether a woman wears a headscarf or not - it really isn't any of your business.

By Rosemarijn | 7 January 2013 6:40 PM

All over the middle east the scarf is an expression of opposition to western values and norms. And if many Muslims oppose western culture you can forget about integration and peaceful coexistence. Instead sticking to 7th century tradition, when scarf was needed to protect from sun and wind, progressive Muslims should revive their religion and adapt their cultural norms to the western culture. Why is it that only Westerners have to adapt to other culture but not the other way around as well? Why Muslims can not change interpretation of their tradition? Why only westerners are demanded to adapt to other cultures?

By mc | 8 January 2013 9:09 AM

I didn't realise that The Belgians were more endemically racist that the Dutch. Its rather a shame that we chose to not populate our own country's, demographically? Because, this type of behaviour brings out the racist in most? and still, in the future, we require more immigration from other cultures we are not intolerant of. What a mess our grandchildren face?

By An inconvenient truth | 8 January 2013 11:43 AM

I am Muslim woman by birth and decided not to wear the head scarf. You cannot preach tolerance nor freedom of speech or religion if you cannot allow one person, no matter what the gender is or the religion(when the practice of that religion does not endanger the society) to do as they wish. I do detest the hypocrisy of some people here. You cannot call people medieval and consider yourself liberal. You let others as they choose to be. Being liberal and open minded means you tolerate and compromise. Then you can expect from those so called medieval people take the example of you.

By X&Y | 8 January 2013 11:45 AM

If I belong to the church of spaghetti monster, I would demand the right to exercise my religion and to be honest I should be allowed to do so..

By X&Y | 8 January 2013 11:47 AM

Oh yes, I definitely feel the need to scrutinize the complete hairdo of someone selling a pair of socks to me, it makes all the difference! Socks wouldn't be the same without it!

By AR | 8 January 2013 4:26 PM

@mc, the question to ask is why does the headscarf generate so much enmity within Western societies? So many people liken it to a political statement! A Western Muslim friend once told me that the headscarf identifies her as a Muslim, and she was proud to be one.
It is not integration you talk about, it is assimilation. I respect everyone, no matter what they put on their head..
Even if this was a peroxide wig...

By Saladin | 10 January 2013 10:24 AM

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