Swedish job agency guilty of discrimination over handshake

swedenThe Swedish National Public Employment Agency has been fined by a Stockholm District Court under charges of discrimination. The fine resulted from the agency’s withdrawal of benefit payments to a Muslim man who refused to shake hands with a female CEO.

According to the ruling made last week the agency must pay SEK 60,000 (USD 8,000) to the Muslim man following his removal from their labour market training scheme. The decision came after he refused to make physical contact with the female CEO at a company where he was looking for work experience. The court deemed that the agency knew that the religious conviction of the man prevented him from making such contact as handshakes with women who were not known to him, and was therefore guilty of discrimination.

The company in question did not decide to offer the man any work experience or internship but claimed that this was due to his lack of necessary skills and relevant experience. The man then had his job seeker’s allowance discontinued by the agency, prompting him to take the matter to the Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman (DO).

DO ruled in favour of the man and agreed that he had suffered discrimination and a court order was applied for seeking compensation worth SEK 120,000 (USD 16,000). The court found that the agency was unable to deny what had happened, which is required by Swedish law, and therefore must payout SEK 60,000. Although acknowledging that the incident may have been unintentional, the court deemed that the man had nonetheless suffered financial loss and emotional distress.

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