UPDATE: Croydon muslim fired from Sutton Vodafone shop for having a beard
A Muslim was sacked on the first day of a new job at a phone shop because of his beard.
Shahid Saleem, 21, from Croydon, has a beard for religious reasons and is now seeking legal advice after the discrimination he faced at Vodafone in Sutton High Street.
Mr Saleem turned up at the store on September 9, 2011 after being placed there by the recruitment agency, Adecco.
He was taken to a room at the back of the store by the manager and told he could not work there because he had a beard.
Mr Saleem asked to see the dress code to see whether Vodafone had an official policy which requires a worker to be clean shaven.
However, his request was refused and he claimed he was escorted to the door and told to speak to his job agency.
Mr Saleem said: "Throughout the whole time [the store manager] was talking to me, he spoke to me condescendingly in public in front of a Vodafone employee, which completely demoralised and upset me as well as causing me distress.
"He did not mention anything at all about my clothes; he only stated that he did not want me working with him if I had a beard."
"What [the store manager] did was blatant discrimination, and discrimination is this country is illegal, especially in regards to the work place."
Mr Saleem is still affected by the experience; he said he felt disrespected and that no-one in his life had treated him in this way.
After inquiring the company dress code, the store manager contacted Adecco on the same day to confirm that Mr Saleem could return without removing his beard.
However, Mr Saleem, who prays five times a day, said he would not feel comfortable returning to the store which had already discriminated against him once.
Vodafone investigated Mr Saleem’s complaint and sent him an explanation and apology.
They said the store manager felt Mr Saleem’s appearance was "rather scruffy and not business appropriate" but admitted he focused on discussing Mr Saleem’s beard rather than the rest of his appearance.
The store manager was subsequently enrolled on a training course to help him to understand more about diversity and about Vodafone’s approaches and policies.
Mr Saleem’s MP, Malcolm Wicks said: "This is a shocking case of discrimination which surprised me in this day and age.
"I wrote to Vodafone about this and I’m pleased about the action they have taken.
"This man was shocked and upset - understandably so and I am pleased he stood up for himself."
A spokeswoman for Vodafone said: "We did not fire Mr Saleem as stated in your headline.
"Mr Saleem did not accept the position offered in our retail store in September. We also made it clear to Mr Saleem that we would very much like him to join us at a later date if a position arises that suits him.
"We have absolutely no mention of beards in our dress code. In retail stores, we ask that employees wear branded clothing and present a neat and professional appearance.
"We do accept that the manager of the Sutton store focused not just on general standards of neatness but also on the neatness of Mr Saleem’s beard and this could have been misunderstood.
"The manager decided that Mr Saleem was a suitable candidate to work in our store and we asked him return to the store the same day to start work. Unfortunately, Mr Saleem felt unable to do so.
"We have apologised to Mr Saleem as we felt that the situation could have been better handled."
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