Abercrombie Settles Religious Discrimination Case After Supreme Court Ruling

July 21, 2015

Following a Supreme Court ruling in June against it, clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch’s has settled a religious discrimination case over its refusing to hire a Muslim woman who insisted on wearing a headscarf that the clothing retailer said violated its “look policy.” The company has paid $25,670 in damages to the woman and $18,983 in court costs, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which brought the complaint against Abercrombie.

According to the EEOC, this represents the final resolution of EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, which was first filed in 2009. The case involved Abercrombie’s refusal to hire Samantha Elauf, a Muslim, because of her religious practice of wearing a hijab. Elauf filed her charge with the EEOC in 2008.

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Abercrombie’s appeal of EEOC’s case against the company due to Abercrombie’s decision to settle EEOC’s claims following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of EEOC.

In its June 1, 2015 decision, the Supreme Court held that an employer may not refuse to hire an applicant if the employer was motivated by avoiding the need to accommodate a religious practice. Such behavior violates the prohibition on religious discrimination contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The case arose when Elauf, then a teenager who wore a headscarf or hijab as part of her Muslim faith, applied for a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in her hometown of Tulsa, Okla. She was denied hire for failing to conform to the company’s “look policy,” which Abercrombie claimed banned head coverings. Elauf then filed a charge with the EEOC, alleging religious discrimination, and the EEOC filed suit against Abercrombie, charging that the company refused to hire Elauf due to her religion, and that it failed to accommodate her religious beliefs by making an exception to its “look policy” prohibiting head coverings.

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