US Supreme Court to hear Abercrombie headscarf case

The US Supreme Court will hear the case of a Muslim woman who was denied employment at clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch because she wore a headscarf.

The Supreme Court on Thursday received a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Abercrombie & Fitch, popular among teenagers and known for sales associates often dressed in racy attire.

Samantha Elauf, then-aged 17, was refused a job at Abercrombie & Fitch in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2008 because she wore a headscarf, violating the company’s “look policy,” which outlines how store associates should be groomed and dressed.

A federal judge initially found Abercrombie & Fitch liable for discrimination, a decision which was later appealed.

The 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects employees who provide “explicit notice of the need for a religious accommodation.”

Under the Civil Rights Act, an employer cannot refuse to hire or dismiss workers based on religion, unless the employer is unable to accomodate the request ?without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer?s business.?

Elauf applied for a job at Abercrombie Kids, the retailer’s children’s line, and court documents said she did not ask about how the “look policy” could be adjusted to accommodate her religious dress at the time of the interview.

The case has received widespread support from religious rights groups and US President Barack Obama’s administration, which appealed the Colorado court’s decision.

EEOC said its cases involving complaints of religious discrimination have more than doubled in the past 15 years, and said while most conflicts can be solved in the workplace, some, like Elauf’s, spark a wider discussion.

“While work-religion conflicts are common, they can almost always be accommodated without undue hardship as long as both employees and employers have an adequate incentive to undertake the necessary dialogue,” EEOC said in court documents.

Abercrombie & Fitch stores typically feature sculpted and slender mannequins wooing clients at the store entrance, often modelling low-slung jeans, plunging necklines, crop tops or short skirts.

The Supreme Court’s nine judges are likely to hear the case in January 2015. A hearing trial is scheduled for December.

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