Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf

The Local Germany
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Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.


“We do not employ women who wear headscarves and do not understand why applicants would expect us to,” the rejection letter said, according to the woman’s lawyer.

The woman, who is an experienced dental nurse, now intends to seek damages from the dentist in a labour court, Spiegel reports.

According to German law, no one can be treated differently in the workplace based on things that have nothing to do with their ability to perform their job, such as ethnicity, religion or age.

The dentist has now gone public with an apology, stating on his website that his letter of rejection was “insufficient and utterly wrongly formulated”.

“My wording was simply stupid and unfitting. I can only hope that my apology will be accepted,” he wrote, claiming he had “nothing to do with the AfD (Alternative for Germany) and neo-Nazis.”

The dentist claimed rather that he had rejected the woman for reasons of hygiene, citing guidelines from the Robert Koch Institute, a German public health organization.

But the woman’s lawyer told Spiegel that the hygiene argument was “complete nonsense”, claiming that he knew of many dental nurses and dentists who wore headscarves.

Advice from the German Society for Hospital Hygiene states that headscarves pose no hygiene risk in medical rooms as long as they are regularly cleaned and swapped.

A recent study by the Research Centre for the Future of Work (IZA) found that women in Germany who wear headscarves are more likely to face discrimination when applying for a job.

The question of headscarves being allowed in the workplace has been raised a number of times in recent years.

Last year the Constitutional Court ruled against blanket bans on teachers wearing headscarves - in force in half of Germany's 16 states - saying that they were "constitutionally limiting". The court said headscarves should be permitted as long as they do not cause some form of disruption in the schools.

In July a trainee lawyer was awarded €2,000 compensation after the Bavarian state excluded her from certain parts of her legal training on the basis of her headscarf.
Berlin officials last year decided that a young Muslim woman would be allowed to wear a headscarf to start a law traineeship in the public sector in a case that set off major debates about religious freedom, neutrality and integration.


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