Mehwish Ali, a 22-year-old esthetician, is seeking help from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre of Toronto (the “Centre”) after claiming she was terminated due to wearing her Islamic hijab to work. The case highlights the ongoing problem of human rights abuse and the vulnerability of employees in the workplace. As Jennifer Ramsay of the Centre pointed out in a Toronto Star article, complaints like these are still common.
Ali had been wearing the headscarf when she was interviewed and hired by the manager of a Pickering franchise for beauty retailer Trade Secrets, and all seemed well. She started work, performing facials, manicures, pedicures and waxing services.
Six weeks later, co-owner Mylene Facchini came into the store and saw Ali for the first time. Ali was wearing a black hijab. A few days later, Facchini was again in the store and saw Ali wearing a red hijab. According to Ali, Facchini said that headwear at work was unacceptable because Trade Secrets promoted hair, not scarves. Facchini then told her: “Before you start work today, get rid of that thing off your head.” Disturbed and upset, Ali went home.
Three days later, Ali received an email message informing her that she was terminated due to performance issues. Ali says that she had never been told there were any problems with her work. Co-owner Robert Facchini, however, says that the termination has no connection with human rights abuse. He emphatically states that “there is no documented proof, there are no documented comments from me that say anything to the kind.”
Points to Note
Illustrating the importance of addressing human rights abuses in the workplace, Ali concluded: “My younger sister started wearing the hijab barely a month ago and she is already skeptical of how she will be judged.”
In addition to having far-reaching consequences on people’s rights and freedoms, discrimination and human rights abuses could put employees on the receiving end of wrongful terminations, with employers facing potential liabilities for damage claims.
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For more details, see The Toronto Star (Salon worker fired over headscarf, she says, by Raveena Aulakh, February 10 2011).