The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favour of a Muslim woman who
sued after being denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch Co clothing
store in Oklahoma because she wore a head scarf for religious reasons.
a 8-1 vote, the court handed a victory to the US Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that sued the company on
behalf of Samantha Elauf. She was denied a sales job in 2008 at an Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa when she was 17.
The legal question before the court was whether Elauf
was required to ask for a religious accommodation in order for the
company to be sued under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which, among other
things, bans employment discrimination based on religious beliefs and
The court, in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that Elauf needed only to show that her need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision.
“A request for accommodation ... may make it easier to infer motive, but it is not a necessary condition of liability,” Scalia wrote.
Justice Clarence Thomas was the sole dissenter. He said that “mere application of a neutral policy” should not be viewed as discrimination.
was wearing a hijab at the job interview but did not specifically say
that, as a Muslim, she wanted the company to give her a religious
The company denied Elauf the job on the grounds that wearing the scarf violated its “look policy” for members of the sales staff, a policy intended to promote the brand’s East Coast collegiate image.
Muslim groups said in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Elauf
that employment discrimination against Muslims is widespread in the
United States. Often, the act of a woman wearing a head scarf is what
triggers the discrimination, according to the brief. The EEOC has
reported that Muslims file more employment claims about discrimination
and the failure to provide religious accommodations than any other
Groups representing Christians, Jews and Sikhs also filed court papers backing Elauf.
case involving a young Muslim woman alleging workplace discrimination
in the American heartland was decided by the top US court at a time
when some Western nations are struggling with culture clashes relating
to accommodating local Islamic populations. The United States has not,
however, faced the same tensions as some European countries including
Please write: COMMENT in this box to verify that you are human