Abercrombie & Fitch has faced more than one lawsuit this year alleging religious discrimination against Muslim females. The lawsuits revolved around an employees and an applicant who claimed they had been the victims of discrimination because they each wore a hijab, a headscarf, in accordance with their religious beliefs. Though Abercrombie recently settled the case filed by the two former employees for $71,000, the company received a much more favorable outcome in the separate case brought by a Muslim job applicant.
The applicant in question is named Samantha Elauf. Elauf showed up to her interview wearing an Abercrombie t-shirt, jeans, and her hijab. Throughout the interview process, the assistant manager explained to her that the store had specific dress policies and briefly described some of these requirements, which included not wearing caps or headwear. When the assistant manager asked for approval to hire Elauf, a district manager decided not to hire her because she wore a headscarf. Elauf filed a claim with the EEOC, claiming that Abercrombie refused to hire her because of her hijab and that the company discriminated against her by refusing to accommodate her religious beliefs.
At first glance, this case seems like a slam dunk for Elauf and the EEOC. Abercrombie has recently been accused of several instances of religious discrimination based on Muslim women wearing a hijab, and the law requires companies to reasonably accommodate an applicant or employee’s religious beliefs. Moreover, reasonable accommodations include modifying dress or grooming policies to allow an employee to wear religious clothing, head pieces, or certain hairstyles or facial and body hair. Therefore, it could easily seem as if Abercrombie violated anti-discrimination laws by refusing to hire Elauf because of her hijab.
Abercrombie Wins This Case
The district court found in Elauf’s favor, however the case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which overturned the district court’s decision. The appellate court determined that Elauf had never told her interviewer that she wore her hijab for religious reasons or that she would require accommodation in regard to modifying the dress policies. Since she had not requested reasonable accommodation for her religious beliefs and no managers were aware she would require accommodation, there was no way the company could have refused to accommodate her.
The court stated that it is the responsibility of the applicant or employee to inform the employer of the need for reasonable religious accommodation. Only after the employer is put on notice of the need for accommodation must the employer discuss the accommodation and possible solutions with the employee.
In this case, the court found in favor of Abercrombie, however the company has been held liable for discrimination in recent cases. If you believe your employer has discriminated against you in any way, call the employment attorneys at HKM for help today.