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Austrian court pays Muslim woman damages for headscarf discrimination

A Muslim woman who was pressured to remove her headscarf during the application process to become a kindergarten teacher and ultimately did not get the training position has been awarded €2,000 ($2,196) in damages in Austria.

This decision was confirmed by the Vienna Regional Court for Civil Matters in the second instance on Monday, the Litigation Association that legally represented the woman in court announced.

The judgment is legally binding. The then 19-year-old woman, who had already gained experience as a kindergarten assistant, had wanted to gain further qualifications and complete training as a child group supervisor with a Viennese provider.

During the application process, she was “repeatedly asked about her headscarf in a discriminatory manner” and urged to “take it off,” according to the press release issued by the association.

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Discrimination on basis of gender and religion

According to the Litigation Association, the court found discrimination on the basis of gender and religion under the Austrian Equal Treatment Act (GlBG).

“Repeated, intrusive questions about the headscarf have no place in a job application process. The court makes it clear that this can constitute prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender and religion,” said a statement from Theresa Hammer, head of legal enforcement for the Litigation Association.

It was also made clear by the court that access to training is also covered by discrimination protection, not just the provision of the training itself, she said.

According to Sandra Konstatzky, head of the Austrian Ombud for Equal Treatment, 74% of the inquiries handled by the Ombud on the discrimination ground of religion concern persons of the Muslim faith. 

90% of these inquiries relate to experiences of discrimination by Muslim women.

READ MORE: Denmark rejects push to debate in parliament ban on hijab in schools

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