Supreme Court Takes Up Religious Discrimination Case

Updating a case we blogged about last October, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments two weeks ago in the case of a Muslim teenager in Oklahoma who was allegedly rejected from a job at an Abercrombie and Fitch store because her hijab. Photo of discrimination definition

The lawsuit involves Samantha Elauf, who sought employment with the retail company in 2008. She claims that she was not hired because she wore a black hijab during her interview, which did not meet the company’s floor demands. The company reportedly refers to floor sales associates as “models” and has a “look policy”, which reportedly bans caps and black clothing.

According to USA Today, Abercrombie and Fitch is being backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups in its defense of the lawsuit, as the associations claim “employers should not be forced to inquire about a job applicant’s religion, for fear of appearing to discriminate.”

Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), representing Elauf, claims that the retailer discriminated “when it intentionally refused to hire [Elauf] because of her hijab, after inferring correctly that [she] wore the hijab for religious reasons.” Dozens of religious organizations are also backing Elauf.

The case made its way to the Supreme Court after Elauf won her case in a district court, but the ruling was overturned by an appeals court. Legal experts said any decision in the case could have a huge impact on labor laws nationally.

I Have Experienced Religious Discrimination

As this case shows, there are federal laws that protect employees from religious discrimination at work.

Additionally, California has laws that prohibit discrimination based on a person’s religious views. Instances of discrimination can include offensive jokes or slurs (or harassment) and the failure of an employer to hire or promote employees due to their religious beliefs.

In addition, it should be noted that it is illegal for an employer to prohibit the wearing of a religious garment unless it interferes with an employee’s ability to perform a task.

Remember, the EEOC says that an employer must “reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee.” Because of this, if you are experiencing issues at work over your religion, it may be in your best interest to speak to a labor attorney. You could potentially seek damages.

Kesluk, Silverstein & JacobLos Angeles employment attorneys

Did You Know? An employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious dress and grooming requirements.