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Employment Service

Swedish Public Employment Service Guilty of Discrimination

Published måndag 8 februari 2010 kl 14.42
Katri Linna, Equality Ombudsman

Updated 9:26 PM

The Swedish Public Employment Service was ordered on Monday to pay the equivalent of 8,000 US dollars in damages to an unemployed Muslim man who had been removed from a job employment training scheme for not shaking hands with a female boss at the company where he was seeking a work placement.

According to Stockholm District Court, the man was obviously unable to shake hands due to religious reasons, and his job seeker's allowance should therefore not have been revoked.

The court found the Swedish Public Employment Service guilty of discrimination. Katri Linna, the Equality Ombudsman representative, was satisfied with the verdict.

"I am very happy. I am relieved that the court so obviously established that this type of judgement made by the Employment Service is not acceptable in Sweden's multi-religious society".

Linna asserts that the verdict will give religious believers in Sweden better opportunity to practice their religion in daily life, practices which she holds should not be used to take away rights.

The man lost his job seeker's allowance in May 2006 as a result of his withdrawal from the training scheme. He later reported the incident to the Equality Ombudsman.

The Public Employment Service claims that no discrimination has taken place. Employment Service legal advisor, Niklas Wallentin, said that the man was not treated differently than any other person.

"The Public Employment Service has based its decision on the fact the job seeker in the interview situation, which would have led to employment, did not greet the female boss at all. Instead he ignored and avoided eye contact with her without giving any reason for doing so. Anyone registered in the job employment training scheme, who behaves in this manner, risks having their recommendation retrieved, which subsequently leads to the suspension of benefit", Wallentin said.

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