A Muslim woman has been awarded more than £13,500 after she was sacked for refusing to wear a headscarf at the estate agency where she worked.
Ghazala Khan - a 31-year-old non-practising Muslim - was fired less than two weeks into her job at a company run by traditional Muslim businessman Masood Ghafoor simply because she refused to cover her hair.
Mr Ghafoor told Miss Khan, who had nine years experience in the trade, that his wife and female relatives all wore full veils or burkas, telling her that her parents had given her 'far too much freedom'.
A tribunal heard that Miss Khan had been employed to run Mr Ghafoor's Go Go Real Estate office in Leeds, West Yorkshire, in June 2009.
However, within days of working there she was left feeling 'very uncomfortable and intimidated' when Mr Ghafoor put it to her that she had not been brought up as a 'good Muslim' and that if she had been his daughter she would not be allowed to work and would have been long since 'married off'.
He asked her to wear a headscarf at work - even though white non-Muslim women he employed in the same office were never asked to and never did.
On the day she was due to start her third week in the job, Mr Ghafoor told her not to bother coming in.
When she eventually caught up with him later that evening he told her that members of the Muslim community had been 'gossiping' and suggested that she was not 'respectable' and that there might be 'something going on' between her and members of staff.
Mr Ghafoor added that his cousin Shakeel, who was also employed in the office, was unhappy working with a female especially as she did not wear a headscarf, was not religious and was Westernised.
Graduate Miss Khan, who represented herself at the hearing in Leeds, won her claim for discrimination on the grounds of her lack of religion or belief, by dismissing her and sex discrimination.
She has been awarded £13,566.67 for injury to feelings, loss of earnings and unpaid holiday pay.
The tribunal concluded: 'Ms Khan described herself as British Pakistani, meaning that she is of Asian racial origin and of Pakistani national origin.
'She also described herself as a non-practising Muslim, meaning that she identified with the Muslim religon but did not attend her local mosque, pray regularly or cover her hair.
'The respondent on the other hand is a practising Muslim with traditional religious and cultural beliefs.'
The tribunal heard that at her job interview Miss Khan had worn a grey pinstripe trouser suit, described as 'conventional modern professional dress'.
Non-practising: Miss Khan said she 'identified with the Muslim religion but did not attend her local mosque, pray regularly or cover her hair'
Mr Ghafoor wanted her to run the office when he was out on business, telling her he wanted 'someone professional in the front office' and she began work there on June 17 last year.
The tribunal heard that Mr Ghafoor had originally told Miss Khan there was no problem with the way she dressed.
'He was happy that she was fully covered up by the black trousers and long sleeved blouses and tops that she wore to work,' the tribunal heard.
'By the time of the hearing, he was saying that she had chosen to wear clothing of a very revealing nature.'
After sacking Miss Khan on June 30, Mr Ghafoor went on to acknowledge that Miss Khan had not done anything wrong at work and that it was not her fault.
'He was happy with her work, it was just that they could not have a woman working in the office,' the tribunal ruled.
'He added that they had had a 'problem' like that before with what he described as a Westernised young Muslim Asian woman working there.
'They had dismissed her too after a few days for essentially the same reason.
'In her case, however, the respondent had found her another job in a friend's office.
The tribunal concluded: 'We find that the respondent treated the claimant less favourably by dismissing her and not his white women employees because she would not cover her hair.
'That refusal on Ms Khan's part was owing to a lack of belief that her religion obliged her to do so.
'Whilst she identified with the Muslim faith, she did not agree with its practices as applied to women.
'That was the ground for her dismissal, although it can be said that the refusal to wear a headscarf was simply a manifestation of a lack of belief.
'We do not think, however, that such a narrow interpretation is appropriate on these facts.
'For the authorities indicate that an employer is entitled to maintain a 'secular' workplace by eluding manifestations of religious belief from working practices and dress, if it deems it appropriate in the circumstances.
'We can see no reason why that principle should not apply to an employee in the circumstances of this case.
'Further, we decided that a purely cultural interpretation of the requirement to wear a headscarf was too narrow.
'We agree with Ms Khan that the requirement is a mixture of the cultural and the religious in so far as it is derived from a particular interpretation of Islamic scriptures.
'As for sex discrimination, there was direct evidence that Ms Khan's sex as a woman played a part in the decision to dismiss.
'Cousin Shakeel did not want to work with a Muslim woman who did not cover her hair.
'The covering is an expression of female modesty.
'He would have treated any male employee more favourably by working with him, all other things being equal.
'Accordingly we found that the discrimination was equally on the ground of the claimant's sex.'
The tribunal concluded: 'Our impression of Ms Khan was of an articulate young woman who genuinely needed a job and would not have behaved in the way described by Mr Ghafoor.'
Mr Ghafoor was cleared of race discrimination as the tribunal ruled he would have treated black or white female converts the same as he treated Ms Khan.