Abercrombie & Fitch

Supreme Court Rules Against Abercrombie & Fitch In Religious Failure to Hire Claim

Recently, the United States Supreme Court ruled against retailer Abercrombie & Fitch in an employment discrimination lawsuit.  Abercrombie has a "look policy" which governs what its employees can wear - specifically, the employer barred its employees from wearing hats.  Samantha Elauf is a practicing Muslim.  In accordance with her faith, she wears a headscarf.  Elauf applied for a job and Heather Cooke, the store's assistant manager, found she was qualified.  Cooke, however, thought that the headscarf would violate the look policy.  She conferred with Randall Johnson, the district manager.  Johnson told Cooke not to hire her as it would violate the look policy, and Cooke followed the instruction.  The EEOC filed suit, alleging that the retailer discriminated against her on the basis of religion.  While the district court found in her favor, the appeals court reversed, reasoning that an employer could not be held liable for failure to accomodate unless the applicant or employee provides the employer with actual need for a religious accomodation.  The United States Supreme Court reversed, reasoning that the plaintiff need only show that the need for a religious accomodation was a motivating factor in the employment decision.  While this was a case decided on fairly narrow facts, it was a very big victory for employees, who in the future, need not specifically voice their request for an accomodation.