Supreme Court Rules For Tulsa Woman In Case Against Abercrombie & Fitch

Monday, June 1st 2015, 10:32 am
By: News On 6

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Tulsa woman who sued Abercrombie and Fitch after it refused to hire her over a head scarf. 

Samantha Elauf argued that she wore the headdress due to her religious obligations, and the Supreme Court ruled Monday that the retail chain violated her civil rights.

The ruling cites the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which "prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant because of the applicant's religious practice when the practice could be accommodated without undue hardship," according to the court.

Elauf says she began wearing a hijab as part of her Muslim faith when she was 13, and wore one to her interview.

10/2/2014 Related Story: Supreme Court To Decide Tulsa Religious Bias Case Over Hijab

Two managers decided not to hire her because the scarf would violate the company's "look policy," the court said. The company said that policy prevents sales models from wearing any kind of headwear, unless they request and receive an exception. Elauf did not request one.

A federal judge in Tulsa initially sided with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued on behalf of Samantha Elauf. The agency alleged Elauf wasn't hired at a Tulsa store in 2008 because her hijab violated Abercrombie's "look policy," described at the time as a "classic East Coast collegiate style."

A Tulsa jury then awarded her $20,000 in compensatory damages.

But the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision. The appeals court said Elauf never directly informed her interviewer she needed a religious accommodation, even though she was wearing the head scarf during her interview.

"There is no reason why a Muslim girl should go to a job interview worrying about the fact that they wear a head scarf," Samantha Elauf told News On 6.

Supreme court justices ruled that Title VII was misinterpreted in an earlier ruling, and that the employer must make accommodation for Elauf's religious observance and practice.

The justices reversed the 10th Circuit's judgment and remanded the case for further consideration.

Read The Supreme Court Summary