Today, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in favor of Samantha Elauf, a Muslim woman who was 17 years old when she was turned down for a job at Abercrombie & Fitch because she wore a hijab. Ms. Elauf was not hired because her headscarf violated Abercrombie’s “Look Policy”, which at the time did not allow hats. The company said that policy prevented sales models from wearing any kind of headwear, unless they requested and received an exception. Elauf did not request one, and that served as the basis for Abercrombie’s defense.
Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion for the Court, finding that the plaintiff did not have to show that Abercrombie was aware of the applicant’s need for religious accommodation. Instead, the Court held that “an applicant need only show that his need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision.” The Court voted 8-1 in the plaintiff’s favor, reversing the 10th Circuit ruling in Abercrombie’s favor. The lone dissenter was Clarence Thomas.
The ruling cited the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which “prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant because of the applicant’s religious practice when the practice could be accommodated without undue hardship.”
The case was remanded for further consideration. In the interim, Abercrombie has changed its policy and now hijabs are a permitted exception to the dress code.