Types of workplace discrimination experienced by Muslim Women wearing Hijab

Posted on May 6, 2007



The issue of discrimination experienced by Muslim women who wear hijab when they apply for work was established in 2000 through consultations conducted by Women Working With Immigrant Women (WWIW) with Muslim serving organizations and through surveys of labour organizations and institutions such as the Ontario Human Rights Commission to find out what information these organizations kept on this issue. While everyone was aware that this is an issue, and they all agreed that Muslim women who wear hijab experienced discrimination in employment, no documentation existed. In 2001, WWIW con- ducted the study “No Hijab is Permitted Here” which documented the experience of Muslim women wearing hijab when they apply for work in the manufacturing, sales and service sectors. The study revealed that women who wear hijab are given incorrect information regarding job availability, are denied the opportunity to apply for jobs, made to feel invisible and unwelcome when applying, they are fired from jobs, and they are harassed in the workplace as a result of wearing hijab. Muslim women wearing hijab experienced this discrimination regardless of their age, skin colour, experience in Canada, accent, mannerisms and education. The following are examples of experiences reported by Muslim women wearing hijab and comments made by employers which illustrate the barriers and types of discrimination, which women experience:

  1. Told by employer that she should remove “head cap”
  2. Asked by employer to remove hijab
  3. Told over the phone by employer to go to the company to fill out an application form, however when she arrived soon after at the company, wearing hijab, she was told the position was taken.
  4. She applied for a job not wearing hijab, and was offered the position. When she showed up for work wearing hijab she was told that the position was not available.
  5. Verbal harassment on the job against religion and culture.
  6. Harassment and yelling from supervisor around prayers
  7. Physical harassment by stomping on prayer mats; when she complained of this treatment, she was fired
  8. Given a back room or store room job when she understood she was being hired for a sales job
  9. Told by employer that she would be hired on condition of removing her hijab
  10. Told by employment agency that she should change her name from Mohammed to something else because it will be hard to get a job with that last name