The Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that could help define the limits of religious freedom in the workplace.
The case, known as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) v. Abercrombie, centers on Samantha Elauf, a practicing Muslim who applied for a position as a model at the Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa, Okla., in 2008. She was denied employment because she was wearing a black headscarf, known as hijab, during her interview.
Abercrombie has a “look policy” that prohibits employees from wearing black clothing and “caps;” it rates prospective employees based on their dress. Though the policy fails to define what constitutes a “cap,” it says an employee is subject to “disciplinary action up to and including termination for failing to comply with” the cap policy.
In the case, the EEOC argues that Abercrombie violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by failing to accommodate Elauf’s religious beliefs. Abercrombie claims Elauf never informed hiring managers of the conflict and that allowing her to wear a headscarf would have imposed an undue hardship on the Ohio-based company.
The company’s position was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, after a federal district court sided with the EEOC.
The high court must decide whether employers have to ask prospective workers if they need a religious accommodation, or if it is it up to the job seekers to make the need known.
Business interests are paying close attention to the case.
By Lydia Wheeler – The Hill –