British department store chain Marks & Spencer (M&S) has told its Muslim staff they can refuse to sell customers alcohol and pork which are against the Muslim faith, the Telegraph reported.
“At M&S, Muslim staff who do not wish to handle alcohol or pork have been told they can politely request that customers choose another till at which to pay,” the Telegraph reported.
The paper spoke to a customer who had planned to purchase alcohol and pork products at one of the chain’s London stores and was told by a Muslim checkout employee to wait to pay until another register was free.
“I had one bottle of champagne, and the lady, who was wearing a headscarf, was very apologetic but said she could not serve me. She told me to wait until another member of staff was available,” the customer said, adding “I was taken aback. I was a bit surprised. I’ve never come across that before.”
A spokesman for the iconic British department chain that was founded in the 1880s told the paper: “We recognize that some of our employees practice religions that restrict the food or drink they can handle, or that mean they cannot work at certain times.”
“M&S promotes an environment free from discrimination and so, where specific requests are made, we will always make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them, whilst ensuring high levels of customer service,” the spokesman added.
The spokesman noted that tolerance spreads to other religions at the retailer, including allowing Christians who don’t wish to work on Sundays to be off, as well as Jews who wish not to work on Saturdays.
The British newspaper surveyed other chains which said their salespeople must be able to handle all items sold in each store.
For example, the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s policy states that there is no reason why employees who do not drink alcohol or eat pork for religious reasons cannot handle those products.
The large British retailer Tesco said that while it treats each case individually, it “made no sense” to employ someone at a cash register who refuses to touch certain products for religious reasons, the Telegraph reported.
Other food sellers told the paper they would respect the religious wishes of employees who didn’t want to handle the items forbidden by their religion and excuse them from working the register.