Singapore Dept Store Reacts To Backlash After Telling Part-Time Worker To Remove Her Hijab

"[They] implied that the removal of it is to uphold professionalism."

Cover image via TODAY & Saw Siow Feng/Malay Mail

Singapore retailer Tangs has said that it will now allow the hijab to be worn by workers on its premises after it received backlash for allegedly telling an employee to remove hers

"Discrimination of any form and against anyone has no place at all in our society and, most certainly, not at the workplace," said Singapore President Halimah Yacob on Thursday, 20 August, after she revealed the department store's decision to remove the work restriction.

"Tangs have since said that they would remove such restrictions and will allow the hijab to be worn at work," she wrote on Facebook.

Condemning discrimination at the workplace, especially during these difficult times when people's livelihoods have been threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, she added, "People should be assessed solely on their merits and their ability to do a job and nothing else."

Image via TODAY

The incident came to light when business owner Raine Chin shared her dissatisfaction on social media with how Tangs' management had treated her part-time employee

"So I just met a very unfair discrimination (sic)," Chin took to Facebook on 29 July, explaining the incident.

"They discriminated against religious headgear and implied that the removal of it is to uphold professionalism."

According to TODAY, Chin had hired 20-year-old Nurin Jazlina Mahbob to help run a pop-up booth selling handmade leather bags.

Nurin told the Singaporean daily that shortly after she started her shift on her first day at work, she was approached by two managers from Tangs who told her that she had to take off her hijab or she would not be allowed to work there.

"They didn't even let me speak up. They just kept saying I couldn't work there wearing my hijab because it's against their guidelines," said the part-time promoter.

The management then also gave them a booklet of their work guidelines, which stipulated that they were not allowed to drink anything but plain water, not allowed to eat on the premise except in the staff's canteen, and not allowed to use the store's main entrances.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Saw Siow Feng/Malay Mail

After the exchange drew attention from shoppers, Nurin was allowed to keep her hijab on for the rest of the day

However, Chin later received a text message from Tangs that said her booth will no longer be allowed to run, despite a prior agreement allowing her to be there for another two weeks.

In response to TODAY's queries, a Tangs spokesperson said its staff members had only reminded Chin of the store's guidelines and expected "the same dignity and respect that we offer our partners".

"Given subsequent verbal exchanges (with Chin) that we prefer to keep confidential, we had to come to the unfortunate decision to part ways," they said.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Asyraf Hamzah/New Straits Times

Chin wrote that she was glad to clear her booth and leave, as the situation had humiliated both Nurin and herself

"In the first place, no one had informed us of this grooming rule. Abiding is not an issue, but the discrimination and tone used while giving the instruction was wrong," she said, adding that the management also had an issue with her coloured hair and advised her to dye it black the next time she set up a booth with them.

According to New Straits Times, screenshots of her post went viral which led to an investigation by the Singaporean Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).

Here is Chin's Facebook post that started the change:

In October last year, a Muslim student athlete was disqualified from her race in the United States because of her hijab:

Meanwhile, in Japan, some workplaces have banned female employees from wearing glasses:

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