Supreme Court Rules Abercrombie & Fitch Discriminated Against Muslim Job Applicant
A Muslim woman who was turned down for a job at Abercrombie & Fitch in 2008 because she wore a hijab during an interview scored a major victory today after the Supreme Court ruled that companies can’t discriminate against job applicants or employees for religious reasons, USA Today reports.
Liberal and conservative justices did not buy Abercrombie & Fitch's argument that Samantha Elauf was turned down because of her head scarf and not her faith.
When Elauf, who was 17 at the time, interviewed for a job wearing a black hijab, she did not tell her employer that she was Muslim and the interviewer did not ask about her religion.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the 8-1 decision that even if the preppy clothing store wasn’t aware of Samantha Elauf’s religion, it still influenced their decision not to hire her.
"The rule for disparate-treatment claims based on a failure to accommodate a religious practice is straightforward," Scalia wrote. "An employer may not make an applicant's religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions."
Abercrombie & Fitch has a very strict “look policy” that governs what its employees wear, including type of clothing, jewelry, headwear and makeup. The company usually offers exceptions upon request.
The only Justice to dissent was Clarence Thomas, who wrote that the company’s "neutral look policy" cannot constitute intentional discrimination. The company has since changed its dress code and settled a lawsuit brought by black, Hispanic and Asian-American college students for $40 million ten years ago. It also claims that it has increased the diversity of its sales associates since that time from fewer than ten percent non-whites to more than 50 percent non-white people.
Abercrombie & Fitch released a statement after the High Court’s ruling, according to USA Today: "Significant enhancements to our store associate policies, including the replacement of the 'look policy' with a new dress code that allows associates to be more individualistic; changed our hiring practices to not consider attractiveness; and changed store associates' titles from 'model' to 'brand representative' to align with their new customer focus."
"This case relates to events occurring in 2008," the company said. "A&F has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and consistent with the law, has granted numerous religious accommodations when requested, including hijabs."