Hijab-wearing fashion blogger Samantha Elauf has come a long way since 2008 when she applied for a job at a Tulsa, Oklahoma Abercrombie & Fitch. She now has a successful blog and 11.5k (and growing) followers on Instagram. But back then, when she was 17-years-old, Abercrombie & Fitch denied her a job, and she suspected it was because of her headscarf.
She sued the retailer for discrimination, and seven years later, the Supreme Court took up her case. It ruled yesterday in a 9-1 decision (with Clarence Thomas as the only dissenting vote) that the Abercrombie & Fitch worker who denied her the job was aware of her religious affiliation.
The court didn't rule on whether the discrimination actually happened, but whether Elauf needed to specifically ask for religious accommodation for protection under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Supreme Court's decision that she in fact did not have to request accommodation was the step necessary to clear Elauf to actually sue for discrimination.
She said in a statement issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
Observance of my faith should not have prevented me from getting a job. I am glad that I stood up for my rights, and happy that the EEOC was there for me and took my complaint to the courts.
The question of discrimination will now go back to a lower court, where Reuters reports that Abercrombie will argue that being forced to accommodate workers for their religious beliefs (i.e. allowing them to wear headscarves or perhaps having long beards) would impose undue hardship on the company. And it appears that Elauf and the EEOC are up for sticking out this marathon battle.
The worker who denied Elauf employment back then wa attempting to comply with the company's questionable “look policy,” which “was intended to promote the brand's East Coast collegiate image,” according to Reuters. Earlier this year, Abercrombie instituted a new dress code allowing more flexibility in what workers wear, and changed its hiring practices so “attractiveness” is no longer a factor. It's about time!