Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Abercrombie & Fitch Religious Discrimination Case

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in the case of a Muslim woman who sued Abercrombie & Fitch for religious discrimination, claiming the retailer refused to hire her because she wore a hijab – a traditional head covering worn by some Muslim women – to her job interview.

In 2008, according to The Guardian, then-17-year-old Samanthan Elauf, a Muslim, interviewed for a job at an Abercrombie Kids location in Tulsa. She wore a black hijab to her interview that day – a decision that would cost her getting the job. First, Abercrombie & Fitch forbids its employees from wearing black; second, head coverings (such as hats) were forbidden at the time.

Elauf sued, on the grounds that Abercrombie & Fitch discriminated against her religion by denying her the job on the basis of wearing the hijab. The case has wound its way through the courts, and will be heard by the Supreme Court Wednesday.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s lawyers maintain that the retailer could have made accommodations for Elauf’s religion, had she just asked, according to The Miami Herald. Instead, she expected her would-be employer to recognize that she was a Muslim and conclude that she needed a religious exemption.

“Ms Elauf had been cautioned not to wear black clothing to the interview but nonetheless wore a black headscarf even though she held no religious belief that required her to wear black.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) argues, on the other hand, that Abercrombie & Fitch created an “impossible scenario” for the Muslim job applicant, arguing that she would need to know what kind of rules the employee has, and then ask for religious exemptions based on those rules, all before even interviewing for the job.

The Abercrombie & Fitch case has also had the unexpected outcome of uniting several diverse religious groups – Muslims, Jews, Christians, even Sikhs – behind a common cause. The Council on American- Islamic Relations, the American Jewish Committee, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the National Association of Evangelicals have all filed friend-of-the-court briefs on the Muslim woman’s side, according to Reuters.

Business groups have also gotten in on the case, based on the fear that a potential Supreme Court ruling against Abercrombie & Fitch could lead to businesses being negatively impacted by having to make religious accommodations. National League of Cities and U.S. Conference of Mayors, among other groups, have filed briefs on behalf of the retailer.

Do you believe that businesses such as Abercrombie & Fitch should be forced, by law, to make accommodations for employees’ religious needs? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

[Image courtesy of: The Guardian]