Muslim woman accuses Air France of discrimination

Air France logoA Virginia woman accused Air France of getting her terminated from the job she held briefly at Dulles International Airport because of her religion. “The hijab, to me, it’s empowerment,” 19-year-old Riham Osman said. “When people, men and women, talk to me, they’re looking at my personality, they’re listening to what I’m saying, they know that I stand for something.”

Osman is a proud Muslim from Herndon who wears a head scarf, or hijab, as a sign of her faith – a sign of her faith that she says got her fired from Air France. According to the copy of her contract she was hired by the staffing agency Aerotek to be a passenger service agent for Air France at Dulles. “I think the fact that I was hired at first with my scarf on shows that Aerotek hired me according to my [qualifications],” Osman said.

On June 2, Osman’s first day of work, an Air France supervisor pulled her from her training session demanding she speak with the person who hired her at Aerotek, Osman said. “He said that apparently Air France has an issue with the scarf that they will not allow me to work  because it violates their uniform policy,” Osman said.

Refusing to take it off, Osman left the airport in tears. Soon after, she contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations for help. Noting the ongoing controversy in France about the legality of wearing a hijab, CAIR filed a complaint and sent a letter to Air France saying in part, “It is clear that a discriminatory dress code implemented in France would not supersede American laws protecting the religious rights of employees. Air France must follow American law and grant reasonable religious accommodations for its employees.”

A spokesperson for Air France acknowledged the company received a letter from CAIR but would say only that Air France is investigating.

After being notified about the situation, Aerotek said it asked Air France to make an exception to the dress code policy for Osman. “Air France declined to make this accommodation and instructed us to end her assignment at Air France,”read a statement from Aerotek.

Osman hopes travelers will boycott Air France until she gets an apology.

NBC Washington, 23 June 2011