Muslim Files Discrimination Suit against Jeweler

A Muslim woman has filed suit against a national jewelry retailer for refusing to hire her because she wore an Islamic headscarf.

American born Shereen Attia, 24, of Fairfield, Calif., who is of Egyptian and Italian descent, alleged that she was told she would not be hired as a sales associate at Whitehall Jewellers in the Solano Mall because she had begun wearing a religious head covering, according to the San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus, which filed the suit on her behalf on July 10.

Attia said had previously worked successfully for the same company in the same position, according to Asian Law Caucus. In late October 2006, Attia received a call from the store manager inviting her to apply for one of two newly open positions.

Attia said in a statement that she had worked as a sales associate for the same manager and company at a second jewelry store in the same shopping mall until that store had closed. When Attia visited Whitehall Jewellers to submit her application, Attia said she was told she could not be hired because of it and was denied the job.

“I felt betrayed,” said Attia. “I had worked for the company for more than a year and had a proven track record. I was a good sales person. I’m still the same person with the same personality. I never expected to face such discrimination just because of my appearance.”

Shirin Sinnar, a staff attorney for the Asian Law Caucus said Muslims, Sikhs, South Asians, and people from the Middle East still face discrimination in the workplace.

“People who are perceived as different because of a headscarf or turban, an accent, or an ethnic name are especially vulnerable,” said Sinnar. “It’s no excuse for an employer to say, ‘We’re not prejudiced, but our customers won’t like it.’”

The suit seeks unspecified monetary compensation for lost wages and benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and legal costs against the company, The Associated Press reports.