November 2014 Church & State | AU Bulletin

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide an employment-discrimination suit brought by a Muslim woman allegedly denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store due to her religious head-covering, or hijab.

Samantha Elauf claims the company reneged on a job offer because of the hijab; a regional manager told her that hijabs violated the company’s “Look Policy.”

Abercrombie has since altered its policy to permit religious head-coverings, but at the time of Elauf’s complaint, it prohibited wearing anything on the head. 

Elauf, who is represented by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), won an initial victory in district court, but that ruling was later overturned by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. According to MSNBC, the appeals court found that Abercrombie’s decision not to hire Elauf was not motivated by religious discrimination, since she did not explain to her potential employer that she wore the hijab for religious reasons.

For its part, Abercrombie has consistently argued that it did not discriminate against Elauf because not all Muslim women wear the hijab, and that its Look Policy is vital to maintaining its brand image. Violating the policy “inaccurately represents the brand, causes consumer confusion, fails to perform an essential function of the position and ultimately damages the brand,” it asserted.

The case is EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch.