The Supreme Court Tears Abercrombie & Fitch’s Dress Code

On June 1, 2015 in an 8-1 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Samantha Eluf, a female applicant who had been denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch due to wearing her headscarf, or hijab, in an interview. Ms. Eluf had originally been awarded $20,000 by a jury, but was overturned by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reasoned Ms. Eluf never disclosed that she wore the headscarf for religious purposes.
Similarly, Abercrombie & Fitch tried to argue it did not know the headscarf was worn for religious reasons and instead the company declined to hire Ms. Eluf because her headscarf did not match the company “dress code.” Justice Scalia, writing for the Court, stated that there was ample evidence that Abercrombie & Fitch at least suspected that Ms. Eluf wore the headscarf for religious reasons. He went on to argue that by not hiring her, the company was motivated to avoid accommodating her religious practices.
The Supreme Court further expressed that Ms. Eluf was not required to make a specific request for religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Contrastly, Justice Scalia said, “Title VII forbids adverse employment decisions made with a forbidden motive. He continued, “An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice confirmed, or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.”
The decision has been remanded to the Court of Appeals for further consideration. However, with the Supreme Court’s ruling, it seems very likely that Ms. Eluff will prevail.
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Reinhard von Hennigs