Muslim Waitress Wins Damages Over Skimpy Summer Uniform

A Muslim cocktail waitress, who resigned from her job after she was ordered to wear a dress that she claimed offended her religious beliefs, was awarded almost £3,000 in compensation.

Fata Lemes, a Bosnian Muslim aged 33, worked at the Rocket Bar in Mayfair. She claimed that her upbringing meant that she was ‘not used to wearing sexually attractive clothes’ and the short, low-cut red dress that she was made to wear was ‘disgusting’ and made her look ‘like a prostitute’. She claimed that she was left with no choice but to walk out of her job after just eight days.

The Central London Employment Tribunal (ET) found that Miss Lemes ‘holds views about modesty and decency which some might think unusual in Britain in the 21st Century’ and ruled that her employer should have made allowance for her feelings. In its view, insisting that she wear the dress amounted to sexual harassment.

Miss Emes said that she was pestered for sex by customers of the bar shortly after she began working there. However, in the ET’s view whilst the dress was clearly designed to show the curves of a young woman’s body, it was not sexually revealing or indecent and wearing it could not amount to ‘conduct of a sexual nature’. The company’s lawyer told the ET that there was no evidence to support the suggestion that the bar is ‘a sex club or some sort of seedy brothel’.

The ET ruled that the effect of requiring Miss Lemes to wear the dress was to violate her dignity and it created for her an environment which was degrading, humiliating and offensive. In contrast, male waiting staff had not been asked to wear a summer uniform consisting of ‘brightly coloured, figure-hugging garb’.

However, in the ET’s view Miss Lemes had overstated her trauma at being asked to wear the dress. Whilst her perception that wearing it would make her feel as though she were on show was ‘legitimate and not unreasonable’, this could not reasonably have caused her to decide that she could not as a result consider any future employment in a café or restaurant.

The ET also rejected Miss Lemes’ claim that she had been constructively dismissed and described her compensation claim of £20,000 including £17,000 for hurt feelings as ‘manifestly absurd’.

Miss Lemes was awarded £2,919.95 for hurt feelings and loss of earnings.

The owners of the restaurant group that owns the Rocket Bar claimed that a photo of Miss Lemes wearing a revealing top had appeared on the social networking site Facebook. It is not known whether the ET saw this before reaching its decision. Miss Lemes later said that the photo had been taken on a beach.

This case serves to emphasise the importance of making sure that workplace practices that are deemed acceptable by the majority do not violate the dignity of individual employees.

The material contained in this article is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for specific circumstances and before action is taken.

© , October 2009

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