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Uncovering discrimination: hijabs at work

Uncovering discrimination: hijabs at work

The US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a job applicant who was refused a job by Abercrombie & Fitch because she wore a hijab.

We recently reported on how far potential employers are required to make adjustments for job applicants’ religious beliefs in the UK (click here to read the article). In this case the Supreme Court ruled on the obligations for US employers.

The background to this case is that Ms Elauf applied for a job with Abercrombie & Fitch in 2008. However she was not offered a job because it said that her hijab, which she wore to her interview, did not comply with its ‘look policy’. This was said to be because it was black and was considered to be headwear.

There is an obligation in the US to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of job applicants and employees.

However, Abercrombie & Fitch said Ms Elauf had not told them that she wore the headscarf for religious reasons and that she did not specifically say that as a Muslim she wanted it to give her a religious accommodation. Based on this it argued that it did not have a duty to accommodate her beliefs.

In an 8:1 decision the Supreme Court disagreed. It ruled that Abercrombie and Fitch at least suspected that she wore the headscarf for religious reasons and that this was enough for the obligation to be triggered.

Abercrombie & Fitch has since changed its ‘look policy’ and its hiring practices which it states allows employees to be more individualistic.