On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in favor of Samantha Elauf, a Muslim women who was denied a sales job at an Abercrombie & Fitch Kids clothing store in Tulsa, Oklahoma because she wore a headscarf, known as a hijab, for religious beliefs, New York Times.
In 2008, an attractive, youthful and a self-proclaimed mall rat, 17 year old Samantha Elauf interviewed for a sales position at an Abercrombie store. She didn’t mention that she wore the hijab on her head for religious reasons and the interviewer didn’t ask. Nevertheless, the company decided not to hire her, stating her headscarf violated their dress policy.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), who filed the employment discrimination lawsuit against Abercrombie and Fitch on behalf of Elauf applauded the court’s decision and stated “This ruling protects the rights of workers to equal treatment in the workplace without having to sacrifice their religious beliefs or practices.”
Previously Elauf had been awarded $20,000 by a jury, but the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, overturned the ruling, saying the trial judge should have dismissed the case before trial. The reasoning was that Elauf failed to inform Abercrombie before its hiring decision that she wore her hijab for religious reasons. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the appeals court for further consideration.
The EEOC has reported that Muslims file more employment claims about discrimination and the failure to provide religious accommodations than any other religious group.
The company’s lawyer attempted an unconvincing argument that they had no way of knowing whether or not Elauf’s headscarf was related to her religion. The company’s hiring policy has come under scrutiny several times before for having a reputation of only hiring people that look like runway models and discriminating against minorities and women.
Abercrombie’s lawyer stated, while the court ruled in favor of Elauf, the ruling did not determine that the company actually discriminated against Elauf.
Justice Clarence Thomas was the dissenting vote in the 8-1 verdict and contended that Abercrombie did not set out to intentionally discriminate against Elauf. He felt the store remained neutral with regard to religious beliefs, and concluded, “Elauf received the same treatment from Abercrombie as any other applicant who appeared unable to comply with the company’s look policy.”