A HUNTERS HILL men’s barber who would not cut a girl’s hair has been hit with a lawyer’s claims he breached anti-discrimination laws and embarrassed the girl.
Barber Sam Rahim of the Hunters Hill Village said he was recently confronted by a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission officer in response to an incident, before Christmas, when he refused the girl’s haircut because he was not a qualified women’s hairdresser.
He told The Weekly Times the complaint had now moved on from being a discrimination case and he faced compensation claims from the girl’s mother and an upcoming court hearing.
“The mother’s name is Amy Carr and she is a lawyer,” he said.
“She came into my men’s barber shop and asked me to cut her daughter’s hair, so I politely told her that I was a men’s barber and I’m not qualified or skilled to cut women’s hair. I even recommended the many salons we have here in Hunters Hill.
“A complaint was later made about me to human rights and she wanted me to apologise with an ad in The Weekly Times as well as put up a sign at the shop offering discounts.
“I’ve got a wife and a baby so I apologised because we thought that if she accepts my apology, there would be no further problem.”
In his apology, Mr Rahim said he conceded Ms Carr had a genuine belief in her cause, but he was subsequently “shocked and stunned” when the apology was not accepted.
“Now she wants me to apologise in The Daily Telegraph and is seeking two and a half thousand dollars in compensation, on top of the thousands of dollars it has already cost me in legal action,” he said.
He said he has even been blasted on Facebook in comments posted by Ms Carr that he found hurtful. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The Facebook exchange – as indicated below – has been removed since we published this story)
“One of the comments says: ‘your refusal to run clippers through my daughter’s hair on the basis of gender is sexual discrimination and disrespectful to my daughter and myself. Gender is absolutely irrelevant ..you embarrassed my girls ..you ought to seek some advice about this’.”
In response, Mr Rahim believes the girl would have been more embarrassed if he botched a haircut he was unable to do.
“If I’d tried to cut the girl’s hair and did it wrong, I could have been taken to court for that, as well as causing her embarrassment at school,” he said.
“The fact is I was trained as a men’s barber by my uncle in New Zealand and I simply do not know how to cut women’s hair – all I’ve ever done for 11 years are men’s haircuts.
“My shop is just a traditional, old-fashioned men’s barber shop and my logo even features a bowler hat and a moustache.”
Support from renowned industry veteran
Mr Rahim has the support of Joseph Lo Russo, one of Sydney’s longest-serving and most respected hair stylists. Mr Lo Russo started in the 1960s as a men’s barber and studied for the then necessary qualifications to cut women’s hair.
“Being a men’s barber and a being a hairdresser is completely different,” Mr Lo Russo said.
“A men’s barber will usually use a men’s haircut technique we call ‘scissors over comb’, which you usually wouldn’t do for a woman’s cut because it would not be the correct thing to do.”
Apart from professional ethics, the case also raises significant concerns about the state’s anti-discrimination laws, which allow women’s service providers to knock back male customers.
“The Weekly Times has even had an ad about a female- only fitness gym,” Mr Rahim said.
“I feel hurt by what has happened because I don’t feel I discriminate against women at all.”
He said his ability to trade at the shopping centre was on the basis he restricted himself to male clientele.
“There are a lot of hairdressers around here and the real estate agent allowed me to open because I just do men’s haircuts and I’m not taking away trade from the neighbouring salons,” he said.
“I don’t even want to take trade away from the women’s salons and I recommend them to my friends, because that is the way we do things in Hunters Hill.”
Previous similar case
The case is similar to the drama surrounding Newtown’s male-only salon, Hawleywood’s Barbershop, in late 2016. At the time it was reported that a sex discrimination complaint was made against the salon to the Human Rights Commission, but was dismissed.
Hawleywood’s Barbershop received numerous messages of complaint and support. Mahlah Grey wrote: “What if my husband wanted an appointment but had our two young daughters with him. Would he need to leave them outside? Just want to make sure as I would hate to breach your man’s club etiquette.”
Amanda Houghton supported the salon: “Good on you. As a woman I have no problem with this, you have no reason to justify your actions of men-only, I don’t see others justifying women-only anything.”
Mr Rahim said he has also received support from his clients, most of whom were able to read the latest edition TWT always available in his shop.
“Since I opened last year I have put in long hours, seven days a week and men enjoy coming here for a traditional men’s haircut and to talk about football and about the stories in The Weekly Times,” he said.
“This thing has really hurt me because I don’t go out to hurt anyone, I just want to do the job I’m trained to do and raise a family.”
The Weekly Times will keep readers informed as this story develops.