How I nearly lost my business after refusing to hire a Muslim hair stylist who wouldn’t show her hair

How I nearly lost my business after refusing to hire a Muslim hair stylist who wouldn’t show her hair

It seems too lunatic to be true. But here a hair salon boss reveals how she was driven to the brink of ruin – and forced to pay £4,000 for ‘hurt feelings’ – after refusing to hire a Muslim stylist who wouldn’t show her hair at work

For Sarah Desrosiers, meeting Bushra Noah was not a moment in her life that she would describe as especially memorable.

Not only was it brief  -  lasting little more than ten minutes  -  but it was rapidly obvious to Sarah that Bushra was not the person for the junior stylist position she was trying to fill at her hairdressing salon.

Sarah’s reasoning? Quite simply that Bushra, a Muslim who wears a headscarf for religions reasons, had made it clear she would not be removing the garment even while at work.

Sarah felt that a job requirement of any hairdresser was that the stylist’s hair would provide clients with a showcase of different looks. Especially one working in a salon such as hers, which specialises in alternative cuts and colours.

Yet the ten minutes during which Sarah’s world collided with Bushra’s has resulted in an extraordinary employment battle, in which  she was accused of ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ discrimination.

For a year, Sarah has been facing financial ruin, due to a compensation claim for £34,000 brought by Bushra, 19, who has maintained she is due that figure after being turned down for a job at the Wedge salon in London’s King’s Cross.

In the event, the tribunal ruled this week that while Bushra’s claim of direct discrimination failed, her claim for indirect discrimination had succeeded.

Sarah has therefore been ordered to pay £4,000 compensation by way of ‘injury to feelings’.

Although this is a smaller sum than she’d feared she might have to hand over, Sarah, 32, is still outraged.

‘I am a small business and the bottom line is that this is not a woman who worked for me,’ says Sarah.