Muslim woman wins handshake discrimination case in Sweden

A Swedish court has ruled in favor of a Muslim woman who was cut short at a job interview because she wouldn’t shake hands for religious reasons.


Farah Alhajeh, 24, was called to the interview with a company that offers interpretation services via telephone or video. When she declined to shake hands with a male interviewer, he terminated the meeting.

Alhajeh placed her hand over her heartinstead, hoping he wouldn’t take offense.

The court ruled the company discriminated against Alhajeh and ordered it to pay her $4,350.

Sweden’s discrimination ombudsman took the case to court last year to argue for Alhajeh.

The company, whose policy asks employees to treat all colleagues the same regardless of gender, considers germophobia and autism legitimate reasons for not shaking hands.

The company said the move was not directed at Muslims as a whole, noting most male and female Muslims do shake hands.

The court ruling criticized the company’s policy “for excluding those people who interpret Islam in the same way” as Alhajeh, but said it doesn’t believe the employer’s action was intentional.

 By Susan McFarland