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Female estate agent sacked for refusing to wear headscarf

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A female estate agent who was sacked by her boss for failing to cover her hair with a headscarf has won over £13,500 in compensation for unlawful discrimination.

Ghazala Khan, 31, was dismissed in June 2009 less than two weeks into her job at Go Go Real Estate in Leeds, West Yorkshire, after the company's owner, Masood Ghafoor, told her that his wife and female relatives all wore full veils or burkas, and said her parents had granted her "far too much freedom" in allowing her to uncover her hair. He also suggested that she was a "bad Muslim".

Ms Khan told an employment tribunal that Mr Ghafoor's comments left her feeling "very uncomfortable and intimidated".

She was awarded £13,566.67 in compensation for injury to feelings, loss of earnings and unpaid holiday pay.

In a written judgement, the tribunal found: "Ms Khan described herself as British Pakistani, meaning that she is of Asian racial origin and of Pakistani national origin.

"She also described herself as a non-practising Muslim, meaning that she identified with the Muslim religion but did not attend her local mosque, pray regularly or cover her hair.

"Whilst she identified with the Muslim faith, she did not agree with its practices as applied to women.

"We agree with Ms Khan that the requirement [for women to cover their hair] is a mixture of the cultural and the religious in so far as it is derived from a particular interpretation of Islamic scriptures.

"As for sex discrimination, there was direct evidence that Ms Khan's sex as a woman played a part in the decision to dismiss her ... [since] the covering is an expression of female modesty.

"[Mr Ghafoor] would have treated any male employee more favourably by working with him, all other things being equal.

"Accordingly we found that the discrimination was equally on the ground of the claimant's sex."

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