The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 8-1 Monday in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. [SCOTUSblog materials] in favor of a Muslim woman who was denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch [corporate website]. The question before the court was whether an employer can be liable under Title VII [text] of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for declining to hire an applicant based on the applicant’s religion only if the employer’s knowledge that the applicant required religious accommodation resulted from direct, explicit notice by the applicant. In this case, Samantha Elauf interviewed for a job with Abercrombie & Fitch while wearing a headscarf (hijab), pursuant to her Muslim faith. Elauf was not hired, purportedly due to her black headscarf, which violated Abercrombie’s “look” policy. In an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court held that Title VII, which prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship, applies even where an applicant has not directly informed the employer of his need for an accommodation. “Instead, an applicant need only show that his need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision.” Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
The court heard arguments [JURIST report] in the case in February. Certiorari was granted [JURIST report] in October.