EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch

Employers face possible claims for failure to accommodate even where there is no actual knowledge of a need for accommodation

Posted on June 5, 2015

Back in March, I posted about the case before the United States Supreme Court involving a girl who claimed that she was discriminated against because of her religion when Abercrombie & Fitch didn’t hire her because of her headscarf. The Tenth Circuit had found that because the plaintiff did not inform Abercrombie before its hiring decision that her practice of wearing a headscarf was based on her religious beliefs and that she would thus need an accommodation. On Monday, the Supreme Court reversed that decision, holding that to prevail in an disparate treatment claim under Title VII, an applicant must only show that her need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision, and not that the employer actually knew of her need. EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, Inc., 575 U.S. ___ (2015).…

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Does an employee have to specifically ask for a religious accommodation?

Posted on March 6, 2015

The United States Supreme Court heard argument this past week on this very issue in the case of EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., a case appealed from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Samantha Elauf was a teenager in Tulsa, Oklahoma who applied to work at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in 2008. Elauf, a Muslim, wore her headscarf (“hijab”) to the interview. Abercrombie has a “not hats” policy for sales associates and thus did not hire Elauf. Of course, Title VII prohibits denying employment based on a religious practice, unless accommodating the practice would impose a substantial burden. The EEOC brought a lawsuit on Elauf’s behalf and won in federal district court, but then the Tenth Circuit reversed the decision, agreeing with Abercrombie’s argument that it was not required to give Elauf a religious accommodation because she had not specifically asked for one (basically never told Abercrombie that she wore her hijab for religious reasons).…

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