Muslim Woman's Head Scarf Discrimination Case Reinstated by U.S. Supreme Court

By a vote of 8 to 1, the United States Supreme Court reinstated a discrimination case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a muslim woman, Samantha Elauf, against the clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. Ms. Elauf was fired from her job because her head scarf violated the company’s dress code, which required that employees dress in a “classic East Coast collegiate style.” Although Ms. Elauf won at trial, the 10th Circuit Court of appeals overturned the award on the basis that Ms. Elauf never informed Abercrombie & Fitch that she wore a head scarf for religious reasons. The Supreme Court reversed the 10th Circuit and sent the case back for further consideration, which likely means a victory for Ms. Elauf and the EEOC.
Abercrombie & Fitch defended the termination because, among other things, it claimed that Ms. Elauf had not specifically requested a religious accommodation. On this point, according to Justice Scalia, this case was “really easy.” Writing for the Court, Scalia said that Ms. Elauf did not have to make a specific request for a religious accommodation in order to be protected against discrimination, and that “Title VII forbids adverse employment decisions made with a forbidden motive . . . whether this motive derives from actual knowledge, a well-founded suspicion or merely a hunch.” Justice Clarence Thomas was the Court’s lone dissenter.
The message from today’s decision is clear: “An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.” You can read the Supreme Court’s full decision here:

Questions? We can help!

Contact Us Today

    Caffarelli & Associates Ltd.

    224 South Michigan Avenue
    Suite 300
    Chicago, Illinois 60604

    P: (312) 763-6880