A Chinese restaurant has been accused of racism after staff told a Muslim woman that she can only work there if she removes her hijab.
The 18-year-old daughter of the Muslim job applicant, who asked to be referred to as Alishba, told Coconuts that she accompanied her mother to Peony Golden Court in a Tin Shui Wai shopping mall last Sunday. Staff agreed to hire her mother, surnamed Khan, for a dishwashing position.
After discussing salary and working hours, they said she would need to remove her hijab at work. Khan, 42, reassured staff that she would wear the kitchen uniform but would keep a tight-fitting version of the headdress on for religious reasons, a request that the restaurant argued was a no-go.
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Alishba and her brother confronted staff at the restaurant and accused them of prejudice against their mother. In a video she posted to Instagram, an employee denies repeatedly that she is being discriminatory, adding that the eatery is a “Chinese-style restaurant” and that the hijab “cannot be worn at work.”
Alishba said her mother was allowed to wear a hijab when working in the kitchen at her previous job, and was even encouraged to cover her hair for hygiene reasons.
Coconuts reached out to the restaurant for a response to the incident. A manager, surnamed Long, defended the staff and said that wearing a hijab in the kitchen would constitute a safety hazard. (She was not present at the time of the incident but said she was aware of what happened.)
“They misunderstood and thought we were discriminating against them,” Long said in a phone call. She said they welcome any applicants regardless of ethnicity, especially because dishwashing positions are hard to fill.
But the restaurant staff did not mention safety as a reason for asking Khan to remove the hijab during the job interview, Alishba said.
Long also said that staff felt “frightened” when one of the male family members showed up at the restaurant, referring to Alishba’s brother. Alishba explained that he came later to bring their mother’s vaccination record as required for the job application.
Shocked and angered by the incident, Alishba said she has submitted complaints to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the Labor Department. The EOC has requested evidence for further investigation, while the Labor Department has acknowledged their report.
Alishba added that she is working on the case with a teaching assistant, who filed a discrimination complaint in June against a school after a teacher asked a Muslim primary student to remove her headscarf because it is “unsanitary.”
They plan on taking legal action against the restaurant in hopes of raising awareness of racism in the city, Alishba said.