US justices show support for Muslim woman denied job due to head scarf

Muslim woman filed lawsuit after she was denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch clothing store in 2008 in Oklahoma because she wore a hijab.

February 25, 2015 19:45
1 minute read.
supreme court

Samantha Elauf (R), who was denied a sales job at an Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa in 2008, stands with her mother Majda outside the US Supreme Court in Washington. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON - A majority of US Supreme Court justices on Wednesday signaled support for a Muslim woman who filed a lawsuit after she was denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch Co clothing store in Oklahoma because she wore a head scarf for religious reasons.

The nine justices heard a one-hour argument in an appeal brought by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that sued the company on behalf of the job applicant, Samantha Elauf. She was denied a sales job in 2008 at an Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa when she was 17.

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The legal question is whether Elauf was required to ask for a religious accommodation in order for the company to be sued under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which, among other things, bans employment discrimination based on religious beliefs and practices.

Elauf was wearing a head scarf, or hijab, at the job interview but did not specifically say that, as a Muslim, she wanted the company to give her a religious accommodation. The company denied Elauf the job on the grounds that wearing the scarf violated its "look policy" for members of the sales staff.

During the oral argument, it appeared the four liberal justices are likely to vote in Elauf's favor. At least one of the court's conservatives, Justice Samuel Alito, seems set to follow suit. Alito said employers like Abercrombie could avoid similar situations by simply asking prospective employees if they are able to abide by work rules.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

The case is EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, US Supreme Court, No. 14-86.

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