Supreme Court Finds Religious Discrimination

In a victory for victims of discrimination, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in favor of Samantha Elauf, a Muslim woman who was denied a job at Abercrombie and Fitch due to her head covering. CNN reports that Elauf filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the retailer.

Title VII prohibits religious discrimination. This means that your employer may not discriminate against you “because of” your religious beliefs. It also prohibits harassment based on your religious beliefs and retaliation against you for complaining about religious discrimination or participating in someone else’s religious discrimination case.

If you follow a recognized religious faith that requires certain practices or clothing in the workplace, your employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate you. This includes allowing you to wear a religious head covering or engage in prayers, as long as it does not unduly burden your employer.

In this case, Elauf had applied for a job at Abercrombie and Fitch and was informed about the company’s “look policy” before the interview. The policy included guidelines such as avoiding excessive makeup, black clothing, and nail polish. However, the issue of her headscarf was not discussed. After the assistant manager who interviewed Elauf informed the manager that she assumed Elauf was Muslim, the manager decided not to hire her, citing the headscarf as “inconsistent with the look policy.”

Abercrombie asserted that they did not have “actual knowledge” of Elauf’s need for an accommodation. However, the Court disagreed, with Justice Antonin Scalia stating that an applicant only needs to show that their need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision, regardless of whether the employer had knowledge of the need.

The lower court will now reconsider the case. If you believe you may have been a victim of any type of employment discrimination, please contact the experienced Atlanta discrimination attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.