Sihk job applicant who was refused job due to ‘no beards’ policy wins religious discrimination case.

Sihk job applicant who was refused job due to ‘no beards’ policy wins religious discrimination case.

A Sikh job hunter who was denied work because of a recruitment agency’s ‘no beards’ policy and as a result has won a religious discrimination case and been awarded more than £7,000 in compensation.

A London employment tribunal heard that hospitality recruitment agency Elements Personnel Services refused to offer work to Raman Sethi due to the fact that he has a beard, because of certain grooming and dress code policies it said were held by some of its clients. Elements Personnel Services provides temporary staff for the hospitality industry, predominantly front of house food and beverage roles at five-star hotels.

Sikhs consider the beard to be part of the nobility and dignity of their manhood. Sikhs also refrain from cutting their hair and beards out of respect for the God-given form. Sethi told the tribunal he is a practising Sikh and adheres strictly to Kesh: the requirement that “the hair of the body not be cut”. He said “this belief is in common with other Sikhs”.

After initially applying for employment through Elements Personnel Services Sethi attended an induction and training session on 15 November 2017 where the the dress and appearance code was explained to him in writing: “hair for men must be neatly trimmed and must not fall lower than the top of the collar, with no beards or goatees allowed”.

At the end of the session, Sethi said he approached Ms Kymberley Davies, Elements’ recruitment manager, to explain that he would not be able to shave his beard for religious reasons. Davies then emailed Sethi after the session to say that she would confirm with her managers in the morning about his beard and get back in touch with him.

The next day Davies got in touch with Sethi saying that she would love to have an alternative food handling job for him but suggested that he find a different employment agency. She acknowledged Sethi’s beard was part of his religion, but that having no facial hair is “part of the five-star standards”.

Employment judge Holly Eileen Stout accepted that the agency may have felt pressure to apply a ‘no beards’ blanket policy, but ruled it was discriminatory as Elements could not produce evidence that it had asked its clients if they would accept a Sikh working for them who could not shave for religious reasons.

“The possibility of clients making an exception to their policy for Sikhs for religious reasons had not, on the evidence before us, been explored” said judge Holly Eileen Stout. The tribunal went on to award Sethi £7,102 in compensation for what was described as “indirect racial discrimination”.

Sethi told the tribunal he had previously experienced a number of incidents where he had been refused work in the hospitality sector because of his beard and/or turban. In his statement to the tribunal, he said his experience with Elements had “affected him deeply” and felt strongly that “there should be equal rights for everyone”.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

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