01/24/2014 07:46 EST | Updated 03/26/2014 05:59 EDT

Muslim high schooler wonders if beard cost him hotel security co-op

A GTA teenager is wondering if a big chain hotel didn’t hire him for a co-op placement because of his refusal to shave a beard he keeps for religious purposes.

Shahbaz Shah, 16, told CBC Toronto that he dreams of entering the Royal Military College in a couple of years.

That’s why when he heard about a placement in the security department at the Sheraton Parkway hotel, he jumped at the chance to apply and was thankful for an interview.

But the interview, Shah said, took a surprising turn when the hotel’s human resource person asked him about his beard.

“The second question was how close are you with your facial hair,” Shah said, explaining how he told the interviewer he keeps a beard because of his Muslim religion.

“He’s like, it’s hotel policy that every male must be clean shave and I’m like…in my head it’s like is this part of the interview, are you sure this has to do with security,” he said. “My beard has to do with security come on.”

Hiring policy

In a statement to CBC News, the Sheraton Parkway said it has never had a complaint about its hiring policy and it employs people with facial hair for religious reasons.

“When a prospective employee who has facial hair is interviewed, a standard question relates to whether facial hair is a tenet of the candidate's religion,” a spokesperson for the hotel wrote. “This question is perfectly appropriate given that we operate in a service industry.”

Earlier this week Shah learned he didn’t receive the security placement at the Sheraton, which has him wondering if his beard lost him the job.

Cess-el Roach, superintendent of inclusively at York Region School Board, said they’ve been placing co-op students at the hotel for a decade.  

“We've never had an issue but this issue obviously it has arisen and we're looking into it and we take it very seriously,” he said.

Shah said the experience hasn’t tainted his interest in working at the Sheraton, but in the meantime he is looking for another placement.