A Sydney barber has been sued by a woman after refusing to cut her daughter’s hair on the grounds that he was only trained to cut men’s hair.
Sam Rahim, who runs a barber shop in Hunters Hill Village in western Sydney, has been sued in the Australian Federal Circuit Court for an alleged breach of the Sex Discrimination Act, when he refused to cut a girl’s hair last December and instead referred her to a local salon.
“The reason we rejected it is because it is a barber shop,” Mr. Rahim said on Australian television Tuesday. “I only specialise in cutting men’s hair. I’m not qualified to cut females’ hair. That’s pretty much it. I’m surrounded by hairdressers.”
As a rule, when women come into the barber shop Rahim just sends them to the nearest hairdressing salon, he said. “They are literally a 20-second walk away.”
Mr. Rahim said he refused the woman’s request “politely.”
“But she kept pressing me, saying I should just do it. I told her there are three women’s hair salons within a minute’s walk but she became angry and stormed out.”
Mr. Rahim said his decision had nothing to do with discrimination, but rather reflected the training he had received and the specific service offered in his barbershop.
“We’re all for gender equality … but the skillset is completely different,” he said. “A barber course is about six months and a hairdressing TAFE course is three years, in which you have to do your apprenticeship as well. It’s completely different. When you walk into a barber shop, you rarely see any women in there because a barber shop is just known for men.”
The anonymous woman did not accept Rahim’s explanation and took her protest to the Human Rights Commission, filing a complaint that he violated anti-discrimination laws by refusing to serve a girl.
Mr. Rahim tried offering the woman an apology, but she didn’t accept it and instead he has been served court papers.
“I’ve got two kids. I’ve had to drag them to go find legal advice because we’ve never been to court or in this situation,” he said. “We were just surprised and shocked that it’s come so far.”
The barber’s wife Rhonda has also weighed in on the issue, defending her husband and saying she was shocked by the woman’s behavior, even after she had left the barbershop.
“After her rant in the store, she proceeded to go on Facebook and continue the rant … and discredit everything that he’s built, because her daughter was declined a haircut,” she said.
“It was not a personal attack. It wasn’t anything personal,” Mrs. Rahim said. “It’s just that he didn’t have that skill to cut her hair.”
The woman summarized her complaint in a statement to Australian network news.
“A claim has been brought against Hunters Hill Barber Shop in the Federal Circuit Court for an alleged breach of the Sex Discrimination Act. The basis of the claim is that the barber shop refused to simply run the clippers through my daughter’s undercut, because she was a girl,” the woman claimed.
“I indicated to him that I did not need him to style, cut or trim the rest of her hair, which is styled in a ‘bob,’” she said.
“Mr Rahim’s explanation was that he wished to keep his barber shop for boys and men only. He never said he was not qualified to cut women’s or girls’ hair, as he has incorrectly reported to the media,” she stated. “The matter remains before the Court and it is inappropriate for me to provide any further comment at this point in time.”
“She might have been more embarrassed walking to school if I’d butchered her hair,” Mr. Rahim said.
“The skills are different. Look up barber and it says ‘a place where men get their hair cut,’” he said.
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