Recall the 2008 applicant for a retail job at Abercrombie & Fitch? A then-17-year old American girl was rejected by Abercrombie & Fitch because her headscarf, a cultural and religious adornment, would violate their “look policy.” I think that rejection, in the context of A&F’s white-dominant aesthetic, was based on race and xenophobia too. A&F tends to push the image of a thin white (and sans headdress) female in their clothes.
Well, the applicant took action and did well at the EEOC and also did well for the brief time they were in district court. But then the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals snatched the win away. At the end of a complicated legal fight, the Tenth issued a lengthy opinion in 2013, a 76-pager that attempted to shut the cover on the issue for good.
The opinion gave step by step instructions for how one could enforce a religiously discriminatory policy (and by analogy a racially discriminatory policy) and still be within the law. I can hear it… in the distance, it’s a choir singing God Bless America. It’s an all male group though, and I know it looks like an exclusive white-Christian male club – it’s really not. They have a look policy that happens to select them.
Try understanding this when you’re a young person looking for work. Encounters like these are what drive increases to mental health disorders, social hostility, and they decrease one’s quality of life.
Law 360 reports:
The court ruled 8-1 that the company failed to accommodate Samantha Elauf’s religious needs when she was not hired on the basis that her hijab violated company dress policy. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented with part of the ruling but concurred with the rest.
“The significance of today’s ruling is that an employer cannot put its head in the sand when it has reason to believe that an applicant will need a religious accommodation,” said Gregory Lipper of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who joined a brief in favor of Elauf.
“It means that if an employer thinks a potential employee needs a religious accommodation, than the employer needs to make a reasonable effort to accommodate; it can’t reject the applicant and then plead ignorance, ” he said.