WASHINGTON – In an eight to one decision, the U.S. Supreme Court came down hard against employers who discriminate against potential employees on the basis of religion.
The case involved a Moslem woman, Samantha Elauf, who applied to work at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Oklahoma. The manager found Elauf was qualified, but did not hire her because Elauf violated the firm’s “Look Policy” – its preppy-like dress code – by wearing a headscarf that observant Islamic women don. Elauf and the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission sued, and got a split decision in lower courts. The High Court ruled for Elauf.
“Abercrombie’s argument is that an applicant cannot show disparate treatment” of religion under equal employment law “without first showing an employer has ‘actual knowledge’ of the applicant’s need for an accommodation. We disagree. Instead, an applicant need only show that need for an accommodation” – in this case, allowing the headscarf – “was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision” not to hire a worker, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote. Justice Clarence Thomas “agreed in part and dissented in part,” the ruling said.
Photo: Zainab Chaudry, center, joins other demonstrators outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Feb. 25. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP