Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 17:30 UK

Owner 'sorry for' Muslim stylist

Bushra Noah
Bushra Noah says she was denied a job because of her headscarf

A salon owner accused of discriminating against a Muslim stylist because she wore a headscarf said she only gave her an interview out of pity.

Bushra Noah, 19, is suing the owner of the Wedge salon in King's Cross, north London, for religious discrimination after she failed to get a job there.

But owner Sarah Desrosiers told a tribunal that Ms Noah was unsuitable for the role as she lived too far away.

Ms Desrosiers added that she asked all staff to remove any "head covering".

Earlier Ms Noah, who lives in Acton, west London, told the tribunal that she was "devastated" that she was not offered the job of assistant stylist at the salon "due to my headscarf".

'Begged for interview'

But Ms Desrosiers, 32, said she explained to Ms Noah in March 2007 that she was unsuitable for the position as she lived too far away.

She told the hearing: "The claimant begged me for an interview saying 'please, please, please can I just have an interview?'.

"I felt sorry for her and succumbed to her persistency and in the end I agreed to her request for an interview."

It would not be consistent with the promotion of the business for them to cover their hair
Sarah Desrosiers

Ms Desrosiers said that during the interview the pair discussed Ms Noah's hairdressing experience and qualifications before Ms Desrosiers asked her whether she wore her headscarf every day.

Ms Desrosiers told the tribunal the "most common way" to promote her business was by having her staff display their hair after it had been styled by her or another of the salon's stylists, she said.

"If an employee in my salon wore any type of head covering I would ask them to remove it," Ms Desrosiers said.

"It would not be consistent with the promotion of the business for them to cover their hair."

'Awkward position'

She added: "I am not a racist and do not discriminate against anyone on any grounds, not least of all race, religion or belief."

Ms Desrosiers said there were three reasons why Ms Noah did not get the job, she did not live locally, she would not display her hair and a stylist had not been appointed, which was who the assistant stylist would be working with.

She denied that she did not approve of Ms Noah covering her hair for modesty reasons.

But Ms Desrosiers added: "If her lifestyle is modest, why is she applying to a salon that I would say is immodest?

"She should maybe have found that out before. It put me in a really awkward position."

Earlier Ms Noah said wearing a headscarf was essential to her religion, and that she previously worked in a hairdressing salon for two years.

Judgement has been reserved in the case.

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