A few inches of skirt length have led to an airport security guard's suspension.
The skirt is too long – not too short – to please the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.
Halima Muse, a practising Muslim, has been laid off without pay until she agrees to wear a standard uniform that includes either slacks or a skirt falling at the knee.
Instead, she has filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission saying she is the target of religious discrimination, as Islam instructs that she dress modestly in a way that covers the body and conceals its curves.
"My skirt is not that much different – it's a bit longer," she said yesterday from her home not far from Pearson airport, where she has worked for more than five years. "It's not about style, it's about my dignity." . . .
No issues of safety or security have arisen, said Mihad Fahmy on behalf of the Ottawa-based Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, which co-represents Muse in the human rights case along with her union, Teamsters Local 847.
"This is the standard: 'This is the uniform, end of story,' " Fahmy said, summing up the federal position as she understands it.
"This isn't even a case of hijab, of a headscarf not being allowed in the workplace, which is often what we come across," she said. "This is just the length of a skirt."
By law, an employer must show nothing can be reasonably done to accommodate religious belief, said Jo-anne Pickel, a Toronto lawyer acting for the union.
"We say that in this case it's very easy to accommodate her religious belief," Pickel said. "All she needs is a skirt that is slightly longer."
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority will take questions next week, a spokesperson said.
Muse's suspension from work happened in stages. On Aug. 11, Garda suspended her one day for wearing the ankle-length skirt.
On Aug. 15, she was suspended for three days. On Aug. 22, the penalty became five days. On Aug. 29, she was sent home indefinitely.
"I am talking for all women who would like to wear a long skirt – practising Christians, Jewish, Muslim, all of them," Muse said. (MORE)