Woman sacked for headscarf turns to the CCMA

Cape Town, South Africa - A prison social worker who lost an appeal against her sacking by correctional services for wearing a Muslim headscarf on duty has turned to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Fairouz Adams's case is to be heard on June 22.

A long disciplinary process that led to her appealing against being sacked for "flouting departmental policies" ended with her dismissal when her appeal failed.

Although Adams wore the regulation uniform, she refused, for religious reasons, to remove her headscarf and tuck in her shirt, saying Muslim women were required to wear a headscarf and dress modestly.

She did not apply to the department for an exemption from the dress code.

Throughout most of the dispute Adams declined to comment, referring the Cape Times to the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC).

Said MJC spokesperson Mariam Salie: "Because of the unfair discrimination... by the correctional services department ... with regards to (Adams's) religious sensitivities ... the case has been taken to the CCMA (to seek) her reinstatement with back pay, damages for violation of her dignity and religion, and to request that the department amend its dress code."

Salie said if the dispute was not resolved at the CCMA to the MJC's satisfaction, the council would turn to the labour court.

She said Adams was in "good spirits" and "determined to stand up for her rights".

"As the breadwinner and a single mother, the ... department's decision has placed (Adams) in a difficult position financially and emotionally."

Despite several attempts, correctional services spokesperson Manelisi Wolela could not be reached for comment.

He has said, however, that the department would defend its decision if the matter was taken further.