Swedish Muslim woman who refused handshake from male interviewer wins compensation case

A Swedish Muslim woman, whose job interview was ended after she refused to shake hands with a male interviewer due to her faith, has won a compensation. (Shutterstock)
Updated 16 August 2018

Swedish Muslim woman who refused handshake from male interviewer wins compensation case

  • Farah Alhajjeh, 24, was being interviewed for a job as an interpreter last year
  • When she declined to shake the hand of a male interviewer for religious reasons, the meeting was terminated

LONDON: A Swedish Muslim woman, whose job interview was ended after she refused to shake hands with a male interviewer due to her faith, has won a compensation case in a Swedish Labor Court ruling.
Farah Alhajjeh, 24, was being interviewed for a job as an interpreter last year, and when she declined to shake the hand of a male interviewer for religious reasons, the meeting was terminated.
Alhajjeh, instead, placed her hand over her heart in greeting.
Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsmen took the case to the Labor Court, who ruled on Thursday that the company had discriminated against her and ordered it to pay 40,000 kronor ($4,350) in compensation.
During the case, the company had admitted that germophobia and autism were among its “legitimate” reasons for not shaking hands, but it argued that its policy called for employees to treat all colleagues equally no matter their sex.
By refusing to shake hands with a male colleague, AlHajjeh’s actions had gone against that policy, it said.
Some Muslims choose to avoid physical contact with members of the opposite sex, except for those in their immediate family.
AlHajjeh argued that in situations where both men and women were present, she would greet women in the same way – by smiling and moving one hand to the heart – to not make the men feel excluded.
The Labor Court said in its ruling that understanding AlHajjeh’s religious reasons for preferring such a greeting meant “there is no reason to perceive (it) as degrading or as a rejection and it would therefore not have to lead to conflicts in the workplace.”
Speaking to the BBC, AlHajjeh said she believed it was important to “never give in when convinced that one is in the right.”
“I believe in God, which is very rare in Sweden... and I should be able to do that and be accepted as long as I’m not hurting anyone.
“In my country... you cannot treat women and men differently. I respect that. That’s why I don’t have any physical contact with men or with women. I can live by the rules of my religion and also at the same time follow the rules of the country that I live in,” she added.


Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault, rape

Updated 24 February 2020

Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault, rape

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted of sexual assault and rape by a New York jury
  • He was convicted of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress, in 2013

NEW YORK: Harvey Weinstein was convicted Monday of sexual assault and rape but cleared of the most serious predatory sexual assault charges, a partial victory for the #MeToo movement that sparked a cascade of allegations against the disgraced Hollywood mogul.
The jury of seven men and five women found the producer guilty of criminal sexual acts in the first degree and rape in the third degree, a measure of vindication for the dozens of women who came out against the one-time all-powerful filmmaker.
However, the 67-year-old Oscar-winner who produced films including "Shakespeare In Love" was found not guilty of first-degree rape and predatory sexual assault charges that could have seen him jailed for life.
The Time's Up foundation, formed in the wake of the Weinstein case, hailed the verdict as marking "a new era of justice."
"Abusers everywhere and the powerful forces that protect them should be on notice: There's no going back," it said in a statement.
The limited win for #MeToo presents the most high-profile sex assault conviction in the United States since Bill Cosby was found guilty in 2018 of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago.
The decision was announced in a packed New York courtroom where some 100 people had gathered. The defendant, who attended the trial hunched over a walker, was shielded from view by police officers.
More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct since allegations against him ignited the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power in October 2017.
But the jury considered charges related to just two: ex-actress Jessica Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, with many claims too old to prosecute.
One of the predatory sexual assault charges also included testimony from "The Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment in the winter of 1993-94.
Six women took the stand from the opening of testimony on January 22, to say they had been sexually assaulted by Weinstein.
Weinstein's team subjected the women to ferocious cross-examination, as they argued that his relationships were consensual and transactional.
The prosecution cast Weinstein as a conniving predator who demanded sex in exchange for access to a film universe where he was king, but presented no forensic evidence or witness accounts.
The state's case instead rested on asking the jury to believe the women.
Weinstein, who has always said his sexual relations were consensual, was charged with raping former actress Mann in the DoubleTree hotel in midtown Manhattan in 2013.
He was also charged with forcing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his New York apartment in July 2006 while she was on her period.
Mann and Young both testified that Weinstein's genitals appeared deformed, during graphic and at times uncomfortable testimony, as the prosecution showed jurors nude photos of Weinstein to corroborate their accounts.
The charges of predatory sexual assault, a serious sex crime committed against more than one person, were the most serious and carried a sentence of life in prison.
For the jury to convict Weinstein of that they would have had to believe either Mann or Haleyi plus Sciorra.
Sciorra's allegation was too old to be prosecuted as an individual crime but she was included in the indictment to bolster the predatory sexual assault charge.
Ex-model Lauren Young also told the court that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in the bathroom of a Beverly Hills hotel room in 2013 when she was a 22-year-old aspiring actress.
Judge Burke dismissed the jury just after noon Monday, thanking them for their "care" and "attention."
Eyes now turn to Los Angeles, where Young's allegations form part of a separate sex crimes investigation against Weinstein being carried out by prosecutors in the California city.
Los Angeles prosecutors accuse him of raping an Italian model in February 2013 and of assaulting Young the following night.