When will skin colour no longer matter?
Woman complains online about discrimination during job interview at bakery. PrimaDeli is brave enough to eat humble pie and apologise
You would think that in this day and age of political correctness, nobody would be so guileless, and so dumb, as to look a job applicant in the eye and put her down with racist jibes.
You would be wrong.
Such a scenario centring on racial profiling and discrimination was played out in Singapore this week.
A Malay woman applying for a job as a cake decorator in a bakery was subjected to racist putdowns before being rejected.
Typical also of this day and age, she took to social media to vent her frustration at the sheer injustice of such blatant discrimination.
While getting her point across, Ms Sarah Carmariah conducted herself with dignity.
Her Facebook post on Thursday could easily have turned into a tirade and an exercise in shaming. But she refrained from naming the bakery, instead describing it as a "well-known halal bakery".
About 16 hours after her post, PrimaDeli, an established brand in Singapore, issued a statement on its Facebook page to acknowledge the incident.
While it initially said that "serious disciplinary action" had been taken against the employee after an immediate investigation, it later clarified that "there was an immediate dismissal of the employee".
PRIMADELI DID RIGHT THING
The cynics among us might see PrimaDeli's swift reaction to Ms Carmariah's post as an exercise in damage control. Had it not come clean and had then been outed, the repercussions could have been worse.
But let's give credit where it is due. PrimaDeli did the right thing.
It quickly came out to say that it had contacted Ms Carmariah to apologise to her and made clear its stand on discrimination: "At PrimaDeli, we believe in fair and equal rights for all at our company."
It also said: "We have a zero tolerance policy for such behaviour. We once again apologise to the candidate and the wider community with regards to the circumstances."
This is how it should be when discrimination of any form - based on race, religion, sex, age - rears its ugly head in the workplace or elsewhere.
Swift action must be taken to nip it in the bud. There is a salient truth to the quote, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
This was what Ms Carmariah said of her experience at PrimaDeli.
She said her interview with its human relations department went well. Till she was asked to demonstrate her skills in decorating a cake.
As they headed for the bakery, a man she described as "the head of the baking department" turned to her and said: "From what I see, and the way you look and not trying to be racist ah, but you Malay, I think you cannot la."
Ms Carmariah wrote: "I was stunned, and I just froze... I just kept quiet because I was shocked."
But the man was not finished. He continued putting her down based on her race.
She then had problems decorating the cake because she had difficulty communicating with the man's colleague who supervised her due to his poor English.
When the "head" returned, laughed at her work and said: "Aiyo, cannot lah", she thanked them and left, Ms Carmariah said.
MAKING A STAND
She wrote in her post, which had almost 5,000 shares and about 200 likes by last night: "I have no intention of naming or shaming this organisation and its people, but I would like to highlight that racial discrimination in the job market is more real than we think.
"I'm making a stand and sharing my story because I believe in equal rights and equal opportunity for everyone. How can anyone judge another based on general racial stereotypes?"
When contacted by The New Paper, Ms Carmariah declined to comment as "she is dealing with PrimaDeli privately".
In truth, she does not have to. Her post could not have said it any better.
But going by past experiences, this will not be the last time we have to grapple with such sensitive issues.
As Ms Carmariah says: "Nobody should ever be told that they can't do something based on the colour of their skin, but the sad reality is that this is real, and this is really happening."
I'm making a stand and sharing my story because I believe in equal rights and equal opportunity for everyone. How can anyone judge another based on general racial stereotypes?
- Ms Sarah Carmariah
Good move by PrimaDeli: PR expert
Large companies can be guided by good values and ethics, but their employees might not be well trained enough to avoid certain situations, said a public relations (PR) veteran, Ms Rose Tan.
The 62-year-old said: "A company's workforce is formed by many different individuals with different mindsets.
"Staff who are not trained well enough might not understand the sensitivity when it comes to racial issues in Singapore."
Ms Tan, who has been involved in PR for 40 years, said she believes PrimaDeli's decision to reveal itself and take responsibility was not a PR move but an ethical one.
"I absolutely applaud PrimaDeli on how it handled this situation. It shows other large-scale businesses that if you are in the wrong, own up and take action," she said.
Ms K. Thanaletchimi, a board member of Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), said aggrieved applicants can seek TAFEP's assistance to address their concerns.
She said: "The facts of this incident should be verified first.
"Should what is being commented is true, TAFEP can further investigate and advise the employer-prospect appropriately against discriminatory employment practices and instead to adopt best employment practices based on merit and ability to perform the job."