Muslim Woman wins Religious Discrimination Case Against Abercrombie

Posted by Sean P. CecilJun 02, 20150 Comments

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination. Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch seeks a certain look for its employees. These two policies clashed when A&F refused to hire a muslim woman, Samantha Elauf, because she wears a hijab, and in a decision J. Scalia described as "easy" the Supreme Court has confirmed that the refusal is prohibited discrimination- "An employer may not make an applicant's religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions" he wrote in the majority opinion. 

The case began in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Ms. Elauf applied for a job at a children's store owned by A&F. The company declined to hire her, saying that her hijab was not consistent with their "look" policy. After the EEOC filed the lawsuit, the company claimed to not know that Ms. Elauf wore the hijab for religious reasons. The 10th Circuit reversed the trial verdict of a $20,000 judgment for Ms. Elauf, claiming there was no religious discrimination because Ms. Elauf did not tell the company she wore the scarf for religious reasons, but the Supreme Court roundly rejected that theory, except for J. Clarence Thomas, who wrote in his lonely dissent that he would dismiss the case because the company's "look" policy was neutrally applied to all applicants therefore was not discriminatory.

This is not the first time Abercrombie & Fitch has found itself in hot water over claims of discrimination; in 2005 they compan apparently paid tens of millions of dollars to black, latino, and asian, and female applicants and employees who charged they were victims of discrimination, and before that there was widespread outrage among asian-americans for the company's chinese-laundry themed "two wongs will make it white" t-shirts. Sigh.