A Muslim woman, who claims she was passed over for a job because she wore a head scarf, appears set to win her case of discrimination brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, reports say.
Through comments made this week, justices appear inclined to strengthen rules for employers, requiring them to make allowances explicit for the religious observances and garb of employees and job applicants.
It seems that justices agree that rules now are a bit too open to interpretation after hearing the case of Samantha Elauf. At 17, Elauf tried to get a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch outlet in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but was passed over for other applicants when it was decided that her Muslim-related head scarf didn’t fit the chain’s “look policy.”
Lawyers for the store attempted to argue that the head scarf violated the company’s “no hats” policy and that they did not violate Miss Elauf’s religious freedom. But in the hour-long testimony, the justices learned that the interviewer did assume that the scarf was worn for religious reasons.
The justices agreed that Elauf should not have lost her job opportunity over her religiously-imposed garb, but the precise rule in question was a matter of conjecture.
Justice Samuel Alito, for instance, noted that companies should make a “look policy” more obvious to applicants before being hired.
“Well, couldn’t the employer say, ‘We have a policy of no beards’ or whatever? Do you have a problem with that?” the conservative Alito asked the store’s lawyers.
The more liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seemed to agree with Alito’s supposition.
“All [you] have to do is say: ‘This is what our look policy is. Do you have a problem with it?’ As Justice Alito pointed out … you don’t have to probe anything about religion,” she said.
The justices appeared to insist that the burden of sussing out an employer’s dress and religious policies should not lie wholly with job applicants. Employers should also have to be more explicit on what their policies are for dress and comportment, the justices noted.
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