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Sikh Man Wins Compensation for Being Denied UK Hotel Job over Beard

A UK employment tribunal found that the hotels themselves had not been consulted to determine if an exception was made on religious grounds for Sikhs.


Updated:December 4, 2019, 9:26 PM IST
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Sikh Man Wins Compensation for Being Denied UK Hotel Job over Beard
Representative Image. (Reuters)

London: A Sikh man has been awarded over 7,000 pounds in compensation for being denied the chance to work at the luxury Claridge's Hotel in London over a "no-beards" policy.

A UK employment tribunal heard that Raman Sethi, a turbaned Sikh from New Zealand, was refused work by recruitment agency Elements Personnel Services Ltd a few years ago over a general "no ponytails or facial hair" policy of many of its high-end hotel clients.

However, Judge Holly Stout found that the hotels themselves had not been consulted to determine if an exception was made on religious grounds for Sikhs.

"The agency has not produced any evidence of their clients being asked about whether they would accept a Sikh working for them who could not shave for religious reasons," said Judge Stout.

"The possibility of clients making an exception to their policy for Sikhs for religious reasons had not, on the evidence before us, been explored," she concluded as she awarded the 7,102.17-pound compensation, 5,000-pound of which was towards "injury to feelings".

According to 'The Daily Telegraph', Sethi plans to donate the compensation money to UK-headquartered Sikh charity Khalsa Aid.

The 34-year-old had attended a recruitment event run by Elements Personnel Services in November 2017 and was signed up, but was later told that they couldn't keep him on their books.

An email from Elements to Sethi said that there "wouldn't be enough shifts to give you" as hotel managers "won't allow having facial hair due to health and safety/hygiene reasons".

Speaking after the ruling, Sethi's barrister Mukhtiar Singh said: "He was deeply hurt by the decision not to recruit him and, like many Sikhs, felt duty bound to fight for justice. The case is important because it shows that a no-beard policy will be subject to close scrutiny by the tribunals and courts."

After being turned down by Elements, which specialises in providing staff for London's luxury hotels, Sethi went on to secure shifts working at another five-star hotel, The Savoy in London, through another agency.

In evidence during the tribunal hearing which concluded this week, a member of the agency's management team argued that the requirements of their five-star customers were outside their control and that clients would send staff home instructing them to shave or they will not be given further shifts.

The tribunal accepted that the agency had felt pressure to apply a blanket "no beards" policy but ruled that it was discriminatory for not taking religious beliefs into account.

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