A Bermondsey teenager was left “crying and shaking” after she was sent home from her job at the Savoy Hotel because of her religious headscarf, according to an anti-discrimination charity.
Shaidat Olufowobi was working an agency gig at the luxury hotel on June 13 when she claims she was ordered by a staff member to remove the scarf, which she wears as part of her Muslim faith.
The distraught 18-year-old said: “First off he called it a ‘bandana’, as if it was a gang thing or a fashion choice. He confronted me in front of everyone, it was so embarrassing. So many people were watching and I was really scared.
“I told him it was for my religion and he looked sceptical. Then midway through my shift, a completely different person came over and said there was a problem with the headscarf. He pulled me aside when I was serving a customer and when I wouldn’t remove it he said I should leave.”
Tell MAMA, a charity that fights racism against Islamic people, has slammed the Savoy and accused them of “direct discrimination.”
In a letter sent to the hotel and seen by the News, the charity’s director Fiyaz Mughal said: “Section 13 of the Equality Act (2010) makes clear that direct discrimination involves treating someone less favourably because of their protected characteristic, in this case, the religious belief and Hijab (headscarf) of Shaidat.
“We have advised Shaidat of some of her basic rights on this and she can also take legal advice on this as we have advised.
“We would like to add that Shaidat was later found crying and shaking by one of her friends and after a conversation with her today, her confidence has been severely shaken by the actions of managers in the Savoy hotel.”
He also told the News: “This is deeply worrying and the Savoy need to take seriously what she has asked for. Large companies must realise that they are duties on them which they must comply with.”
Shaidat and Tell MAMA are demanding an apology from the hotel, as well as a promise from management that equality training will take place within six months. She also requested a donation be made from the hotel to a charity of her choosing.
Shaidat said that, other than “a couple of racist comments from silly kids while walking down the Blue”, she has never been subject to discrimination before.
She said: “I know this sort of thing happens in France where they have different rules regarding head scarves, but it shouldn’t happen in London in 2015.”
A spokesperson for The Savoy told the News: “We are aware of a misunderstanding that took place between a colleague, supplied by an agency and The Savoy. We worked together with the agency to resolve the misunderstanding.”
They added that they responded directly to the letter sent from Tell MAMA.