DALLAS – A Muslim doctor interviewing for a job at a suburban Dallas medical clinic says officials there told her she couldn't wear her headscarf while working.
Dr. Hena Zaki of Plano said Friday that she was shocked when CareNow officials told her in person and later by e-mail that a no-hat policy extended to her hijab.
Zaki had been on a tour of an Allen CareNow clinic two weeks ago when she said the regional medical director told her he didn't want her to be surprised about the policy during orientation.
"He interrupted the interview and said he didn't want me to take this the wrong way," Zaki said. "Like an FYI."
UPDATE: The president of CareNow has apologized to Dr. Hena Zaki for a "misunderstanding" and says his company will clarify our policy, and will continue our ongoing sensitivity training." Click here to read the updated story.
Zaki wants an apology and a change in CareNow's policies to accommodate expressions of religious belief — "whether it be a turban or facial hair."
However, CareNow President Tim Miller said he doesn't see anything wrong with the policy.
"I don't really feel like there is a need to apologize," Miller told The Associated Press on Friday evening. "I would apologize for any misunderstanding, definitely ... but I don't really feel like there is anything that we did that is wrong and our policy is wrong."
Miller said CareNow makes exceptions for people who want religious accommodations all the time and that Zaki is welcome to apply for a position with the company.
In a statement issued earlier, CareNow, a Coppell-based operator of 22 clinics in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said it does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin when making employment decisions.
After her tour of the Allen clinic, Zaki, 29, and her husband, Rehan, wrote an e-mail to CareNow's human resources department asking if in fact the policy does apply to her headscarf and explaining they felt discriminated against. The Zakis said CareNow's chief medical director gave a short reply saying that was correct and copied in several other CareNow officials.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations wrote CareNow this week on Zaki's behalf pointing out the law requires employers to make reasonable religious accommodations for employees. The Washington-based advocacy group explained to the company that like many Muslim women, Zaki covers her head as a sign of modesty and religious belief.
CareNow has not responded to CAIR's letter.
"It's obvious it's a blatant violation," said CAIR's civil rights manager, Khadija Athman. "It's a very straightforward case of religious accommodation. I cannot see any undue hardship on the part of the employer to accommodate to wear a headscarf."
CAIR officials say complaints from women being told to not wear a hijab in the workplace have become rare in recent years as more employers become informed of their responsibilities under the Civil Rights Act. The law also prevents employers from avoiding religious accommodations because they think the public might not be comfortable with a certain practice, Athman said.
Zaki, who's searching for her first job after recently finishing her residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, has worn her headscarf since age 14 and said other places she's worked have not had a problem with it.
"It's not a hat," she said. "It's not sports memorabilia."