“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.
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.
“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.”
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.