Alice Mutoni, who made her experience public on Facebook, told Yle that an initially promising call with a souvenir shop owner led her to believe the sales job was in the bag. After the call, she emailed the business owner her résumé stating her full name. The following day she called the potential employer back, expecting to schedule an in-person interview. But instead the owner told her that "this was a Finnish company selling Finnish things,” so he needed to look for someone else to fill the position.
Later on, the entrepreneur changed his mind, and told Mutoni he could ”try out a dark girl,” adding that a Finnish girl would be best suited for the job, but he couldn't find such a candidate. The business owner also told Mutoni he had previously employed a "Brazilian boy" but "he wasn’t as dark as she was.”
Mutoni, a Finnish citizen, moved to Finland from Rwanda eight years ago and has worked in several customer service roles. The business owner told Yle that he had been prepared to give Mutoni a chance.
”This shop sells Finnish, wooden jewelry, so a salesperson has to be able to sell these things. She got upset because I explained to her that a blonde girl—more representative of Finland—would be more suitable," he told Yle.
"I told the entrepreneur that it really hurt me that he is degrading me based on my skin colour," Mutoni said, adding "I'll never forget what he said to me next, 'you can't sell formal wear in baggy jeans.'"
The entrepreneur told Yle, ”Mutoni’s CV photo showed her wearing gold earrings and a necklace. People who love shiny jewelry aren’t perhaps the best for selling Finnish hand-made wooden jewelry.”
Ombudsman: Finland one of Europe's most racist countries
Kirsi Pimiä, Finland’s non-discrimination ombudsman, told Yle that Mutoni’s case was a typical example of workplace discrimination in Finland. She said her office receives numerous complaints pertaining to race-based discrimination.
”We have seen a lot of racism in Finland, and research findings indicate that Finland tops the table when it comes to this type of discrimination in Europe,” she told Yle.
Pimiä advises victims of race-based workplace discrimination to lodge complaints with Regional State Administrative Agencies, as the ombudsman has limited powers to deal with racist discrimination in the workplace.
According to the ombudsman, some of the most egregious cases pertain to a person being blocked from entering a store or restaurant because of their ethnicity.
"This kind of practice is rooted in the false notion that a business owner can choose their customers,” Pimiä explained, adding that victims of such discrimination are entitled to damages.