KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 15 — Workers’ unions and a recruiter today expressed support for laws against employment discrimination amid reported discrimination based on age, physical appearance, and even birth month for good feng shui.
A director at a multinational recruitment agency said she foresaw more balanced hiring practices within the workplace if there was legislation banning discrimination.
“I still get asked questions like what age is the candidate? Are they married? Do they have kids? Even to the extreme of what month they are born to align with feng shui.
“There are times where clients reject candidates because of their physical outlook and age. We do our utmost to influence clients to not prejudge candidates and sell them on their capabilities. However, this still happens in common workplace(s),” she told Malay Mail Online on condition of anonymity.
Malaysia Trade Union Council secretary-general J. Solomon stressed that the law must be able to dish out “a very severe punishment” to prevent any form of discrimination against employees.
“Offenders of the law need to be severely penalised in terms of imprisonment and heavy penalties instead of simply imposing a simple penalty, which the employers could conveniently afford and escape a severe punishment,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
Solomon further pointed that the responsibility to prevent discrimination or unfair treatment in a workplace was the duty of every worker and their representative union.
“In that context, trade unions too need to be more vigilant of the discriminations that are taking place and effectively involve in identifying and exposing discriminations to the managements,” he added.
Among the prevalent and “brutal” discrimination, he said, included refusing employment for those with sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, and terminating or suspending the service of a pregnant woman.
“Discrimination against handicapped persons and against certain religious practices. For example, a frontline female Muslim staff in the hospitality industry were recently asked to remove her hijab,” he said.
National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia president Ismail Nasaruddin said the law should protect all workers regardless of age, gender and skin colour.
“If the law is still silent on these issues, then we see prolonged issues will rise. The law itself must be in place before we can embark on strong and critical matters like this,” he said.
The Malaysian Labour Centre of the Union Network International recently said hotel employees had complained about discrimination against front-desk Muslim workers who were told to remove their headscarves.
The ban had caused uproar among some Islamist groups and Opposition party PAS, since it was highlighted last week.
In response, the Malaysian Association of Hotels defended the policy by saying that it was in accordance to international standards of operation.
PKR lawmaker Rafizi subsequently proposed legislation which he said would prevent policies, rules or practices that can discriminate against individuals or groups based on gender, ethnicity, religion or disability.