Muslim applicant says Samsung refused to employ him because he doesn’t drink alcohol

Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center in San Jose, California. [Image: Samsung Electronics]

A Muslim job applicant has accused Samsung of not employing him because he told an interviewer that he does not drink alcohol, the Huffington Post reports.

Omar, 34, was invited to a job interview by Samsung’s human resources department.

He was set up for four interviews that took place over the course of a few weeks – a phone interviews and three in-person at Samsung’s Strategy and Innovation Center in San Jose, California.

In October 2017, Omar was given positive feedback about his interviews from Samsung’s HR department, and was informed that all he had to do was impress his last interviewer, and that everyone else who interviewed him were convinced that he was the ideal candidate for the position.

However, during the last interview Omar was not asked about his previous employment, skills or industry knowledge. Instead, the interviewer stressed the importance of “company culture”, which included drinking a lot of alcohol, sometimes until 2 in the morning.

Omar told the Huffington Post that the interviewer said, “I can tell you’re a Muslim” as he proceeded with questioning him about his religious views and attitude towards alcohol.

The Huffington Post have withheld Omar’s real identity to prevent a backlash from other prospective employers, as he is still in the process of interviewing with other companies.

Omar said he told the interviewer that whilst he does not personally consume alcohol, he would not have any issues with colleagues drinking.

But Omar said the interviewer was not happy with his answer and continue to question him further about Islam, asking him about his religiosity and devoutness, adding that his choice of not drinking alcohol could interfere with the “cohesiveness” of the team.

25 minutes into the one-hour meeting, the interviewer walked out expressing that the interview was finished.

Three days later, Omar was informed that was unsuccessful for the job, and that is when he realised why.

Omar instructed his lawyers at the San Francisco Bay Area’s office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) to file a religious discrimination complaint in October with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

A DFEH spokesperson told the Huffington Post that Omar’s complaint against Samsung was received but did not comment further due to case was still ongoing.

A spokesperson for Samsung told the Huffington Post in a written statement that the company “is committed to a diverse workplace that respects the rights of all individuals” and promotes “a professional and inclusive culture.”

However, the spokesperson would not confirm if the interviewer who questioned Omar is still employed by Samsung, but said the company “takes complaints very seriously” and would address Omar’s complaint “through the legal process.”

A LinkedIn profile of the interviewer indicates that he is still employed at Samsung.

After Omar contacted Samsung’s HR department to enquire about additional procedures he could take to prevent prospective Muslim interviewees from experiencing what he did, a HR representative called him and gave what he described as a “half-hearted” apology for the interviewer’s misconduct.

Omar has not heard back from Samsung since the HR representative’s phone call

Questions about a job applicant’s religious belief or practices is prohibited by federal law unless it is directly related for the position, such as being the head of a religious organisation.

Omar told the Huffington Post: “What I would have liked to have heard is that they were taking measures to make sure this kind of thing isn’t going to happen again.

“I’m surprised at the fact that Samsung, being such a big company as it is, doesn’t do more to ensure that this sort of outcome isn’t there.

He added: “I feel like I always knew that these things sort of happened, but it didn’t really manifest itself like the way it did with Samsung.

“It really made it clear there are some unwritten rules and unspoken realities in corporate America.”

Samsung has 30 days to respond to the complaint filed with DFEH.

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