On Monday, SCOTUS backed a Muslim woman denied employment at Abercrombie & Fitch over her donning a hijab, ruling that the preppy apparel company may have violated workplace discrimination law when it did not hire Samantha Elauf because she wore a religious headscarf.
The 8-1 ruling stated that employers are generally required to accommodate potential and current employees with religious needs if there is an indication of necessity for such accommodation. Elauf had applied for a sales position at an Abercrombie store in Oklahoma in 2008, but despite her high score during the interview, the then-17-year-old was not hired because her headscarf violated Abercrombie's "Look Policy" that is based on what it calls East Coast collegiate style.
Elauf's religion did not come up during the interview, but Justice Antonin Scalia said in an opinion for the majority that Abercrombie "at least suspected" she wore a hijab for religious reasons. "That is enough," Scalia said for the court.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took Abercrombie to court on Elauf's behalf. P. David Lopez, EEOC general counsel said in a statement:
Monday's case is the latest effort to ensure all persons protected by Title VII are not placed in the difficult position of choosing between adherence to one's faith and a job.
A win for all Americans
Many hailed the Supreme Court's decision as a victory for all Americans as it affects how people account for religious and cultural differences, and how the right to religious freedom extends to the workplace.
The Washington Post reported that the public's perception of what is acceptable is deeply influenced by governmental policy; diversity in the workplace counters negative stereotypes against minorities.
Abercrombie & Fitch's 'Look Policy'
The company has faced controversy over its "Look Policy" before, which dictated how employees should look and what they should wear. The policy has since been done away with entirely, as the struggling retail chain attempts to brush off its bad rap.
Elauf said in a statement after the ruling:
When I applied for a position with Abercrombie Kids, I was a teenager who loved fashion. I had worked in two other retail stores and was excited to work at the Abercrombie store. No one had ever told me that I could not wear a head scarf and sell clothing. Then I learned I was not hired by Abercrombie because I wear a head scarf, which is a symbol of modesty in my Muslim faith. This was shocking to me. ...
I am not only standing up for myself, but for all people who wish to adhere to their faith while at work. Observance of my faith should not prevent me from getting a job.