WASHINGTON (CN) – Abercrombie & Fitch must head to the Supreme Court to defend its decision not to hire a teenage Muslim girl because of her headscarf, the justices said Thursday.
Samantha Elauf was 17 in mid-2008 when she applied for a sales job at an Abercrombie Kids store in the Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa, Okla.
Abercrombie calls its sales associates “models,” and holds them to a “Look Policy” that involves showcasing the preppy brand. Though the policy prohibits models from wearing black clothing or caps, it leaves the term cap undefined.
Elauf had worn a traditional veil for Muslim women known as a hijab since she was 13. A friend of Elauf’s who already worked at Abercrombie asked an assistant manager at the store whether Elauf could wear her scarf to work if she got the job.
Noting that a different employee wore a yarmulke, the supervisor said a non-black headscarf would be fine.
The policy on headscarves never came up when a different assistant manager interviewed Elauf and scored her style as a 6, amounting to a recommendation that the store hire the applicant.
When that supervisor sought approval for Elauf’s hijab, however, a district manager found the headscarf inconsistent with Abercrombie’s look policy.
Contradicting the testimony of the woman who conducted Elauf’s interview, the district manager later told the court that he did not know he was being asked about a scarf worn for religious reasons.
The interviewer meanwhile said she was directed to change the score card she had filled out to ensure that Elauf would not be recommended for hire.
After Abercrombie declined to hire Elauf, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against Abercrombie.
A jury ultimately awarded the EEOC $20,000 in damages, but the 10th Circuit reversed last year, saying Abercrombie should have been awarded “summary judgment as a matter of law because there is no genuine dispute of material fact that Ms. Elauf never informed Abercrombie prior to its hiring decision that she wore her headscarf or ‘hijab’ for religious reasons and that she needed an accommodation for that practice, due to a conflict between the practice and Abercrombie’s clothing policy.”
The EEOC petitioned the Supreme Court for review, and the justices issued no comment, per their custom, in granting such a write Thursday.
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