The owner of a hair salon is being sued for religious discrimination for refusing to hire a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf.
Sarah Desrosiers, 32, says she turned down Bushra Noah as a junior stylist to maintain the image of her salon, which specialises in “urban, funky” cuts.
She told Miss Noah, 19, she needed her staff to display their hairstyles to the public.
But the devout Muslim insisted that wearing her headscarf was essential to her beliefs.
Miss Noah, who has been rejected for 25 different hairdressing jobs after interviews, is suing Miss Desrosiers for more than £15,000 for injury to her feelings plus an unspecified sum for lost earnings.
Miss Desrosiers, who set up the Wedge salon in King’s Cross, North London, 18 months ago, says she faces financial ruin if she loses the case.
She denies any discrimination and insists it is an “absolutely basic” job requirement that cus-Yesterday, Miss Desrosier said: “When a potential client walks past on the street, they look into a salon at the stylists to get an impression of what haircut they are going to get there.
“The image I have built my salon on is very urban, funky, punky. That is the look I am going for.
“If an employee were wearing a baseball cap or cowboy hat I would ask them to remove it at work.
“It has nothing to do with religion. But I now feel like I have been branded a racist. My name is being dragged through the mud.”
She went on: “This girl is suing me for more than I earn in a year.
“I am a small business and have only had my salon a year and a half. If I lose this lawsuit, my business will fold.”
In legal papers setting out her employment tribunal claim, Miss Noah alleges she was discriminated against at her interview in March and wrongly turned down for a job she was capable of doing because of her headscarf.
Yesterday, she said: “The advertised job of junior assistant stylist was perfect for me. I did NVQs in hairdressing at college and have 18 months experience at a salon in Ealing Broadway.
“On the phone, Sarah sounded very keen on me because of my experience and qualifications. I sent her my CV and she invited me in a few days later for a trial day.
“But when I got there, she looked at me in shock. She started making excuses about wanting someone who lived locally but I knew it was my headscarf.
“She said, ‘You really should have told me that you wear a headscarf’. She asked if I wore it all the time and I said, ‘Yes’. She asked if I would take it off for work and I said, ‘No’.
“Wearing a headscarf is very important in my religion and is non-negotiable. It is about showing your modest side.”
Miss Noah added: “I am Britishborn and I know the urban, funky look. Just because I wear a headscarf does not mean I do not follow the latest trends and fashions.
“Afterwards, I felt so devastated and depressed. It has always been my ambition to be a hairdresser but I have given up now after being rejected 25 times.
“It is always because of my headscarf, whether they say it or not.
“I just thought that Sarah should not be allowed to get away with it and that if I don’t stand up for myself, no one else will.”
The case will be heard at the Central London Employment Tribunal in January.
Teaching assistant Aishah Azmi was dismissed from a Church of England primary school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, after refusing to remove her niqab in lessons led by a male teacher. Mrs Azmi, said it was her Islamic duty to wear the veil in the presence of adult males who were not blood relatives.
Shabina Begum, claimed a “victory for all Muslims” in a landmark Court of Appeal ruling that Denbigh High School in Luton had unlawfully excluded her for flouting its uniform policy. Miss Begum lost almost two years’ education before being accepted to another school which allowed her to wear the jilbab.
Sophia Moussaoui, a divorce lawyer, was sacked by the Church of England’s solicitors because her religious clothing was an embarrassment to the firm. Ms Moussaoui lost her job after Radcliffes, based in Westminster, merged with Jay Benning & Peltz, where she qualified.