international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Sweden: Court ruling on discrimination, because of an applicant’s religious belief to refuse physical contact with the opposite gender

The applicant for a position as interpreter, mainly through video- or telephone conference, was subject to discrimination when the hiring company cancelled the recruitment process, because the applicant declined to shake the hand of a representative of the company. The reason for the applicant not to shake hands with the representative was the religious belief that physical contact with the opposite gender, outside of the family, should be avoided. The hiring company supported their rejection of the applicant on a policy that employees were not allowed to treat men and women differently, and thus not allowed to decline a hand shake on grounds related to gender. The Labour Court deemed that the ‘hand shake policy’ had a legitimate aim of equal treatment, however, it was not deemed necessary and proportionate with regard to its aim. The Court ruled that the policy constituted indirect discrimination of a disadvantaged group with the religious belief of the applicant. Thus, the Court found that the company was liable to compensate the applicant with an amount of SEK 40,000 for the indirect discrimination.