(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Former Jordan Dubai Islamic Bank (JDIB) employee Vivian Salameh said on Monday that she would take legal action against the bank for arbitrary dismissal after she refused to abide by a new policy requiring female employees to cover their hair.
"As a Christian, I am not expected to cover my hair. I refused to wear a headscarf when the bank asked me to," Salameh, who was working as an assistant manager of corporate operations for JDIB before she lost her job last week, told The Jordan Times.
Salameh said she had been working for the Industrial Development Bank, which JDIB acquired in 2010, since 1985.
In January 2011, the bank introduced a new dress code requiring female staff to wear a uniform and a white headscarf. Salameh accepted the uniform but refused to wear the head cover on the grounds that it violated her religious beliefs and because her initial contract with the bank in March 2010 did not include a dress code requiring staff to wear a head cover.
"I accepted the uniform but not the head cover because the contract I signed with the bank in 2010 did not state that I had to cover my hair. I am not against hijab. I respect the fact that they wear it in the Gulf, but we are in Jordan and our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion," she said.
Eman Affaneh, a spokeswoman from JDIB, stated in a telephone interview with The Jordan Times that Salameh was officially dismissed from her job last Wednesday because "she did not comply with the bank's policy although she had been warned several times verbally and twice in writing".
Salameh said although she had been warned by her employer, she was given very short notice before being fired.
"I am shocked by how quickly it happened. I was given a written warning on May 15 after which I complained to the Ministry of Labour and the National Centre for Human Rights. Then I received a warning on May 21 and was fired on May 22," she said.
Salameh said she had been negotiating with the bank and had finally reached an agreement through the National Centre for Human Rights to allow her "to put the scarf on the shoulders only" because she was not dealing with clients.
"But when I went to take the scarf, I found a notice of dismissal. I am really shocked. I worked there for 25 years. It is like home to me," she added.
Affaneh said the bank had consulted the Ministry of Labour before firing Salameh and that its decision was "in compliance" with Article 28 of the Jordanian Labour Law, which states that an employer may dismiss a worker without notice if "the worker, in spite of receiving two written warnings, fails to observe the internal regulations of the establishment, including safety regulations".
Legal advisers from the Ministry of Labour could not be reached for comment despite several attempts by The Jordan Times to contact them.
Both Affaneh and Salameh mentioned that other Christian and Muslim employees had accepted to wear the headscarf at work.
Affaneh indicated that the new policy required female staff who work in branches and serve clients to wear a full headscarf, but "it is not as strict" for women not dealing directly with clients.
"We are an Islamic institution. We serve all groups of society based on the guidelines of Islamic Sharia, which include modesty," she added.
A new dress code for men working at JDIB should be introduced soon, Affaneh added.
Mohammad Musa, a legal adviser at Mizan Law Group for Human Rights, said that Salameh's dismissal was unacceptable from a human rights perspective.
"It is in breach of the Jordanian Constitution and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCP), which was published in the Official Gazette," Musa said.
"Article 18 of the ICCP says that no one should be coerced to do anything which could be against their religious beliefs and values. Therefore, we can say their decision is a violation of her rights," he added.
The ICCP, which Jordan signed in 1972, came into force when it was published in the Official Gazette in 2006.
Salameh confirmed to The Jordan Times that her lawyer would take her case to court on Tuesday.