The Case of Abercrombie & Fitch

In October of 2013, Abercrombie & Fitch refused to hire a Muslim woman applicant. Their reason was because her headscarf violated their policy on how the employees should dress. The Tenth Circuit US Court of Appeals determined that they did not violate the laws of anti-discrimination in this case. The case was originally held in a lower court that ruled in the favor of the woman due to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which the higher court overruled. The lower court was also ordered to make their decision in the favor of the company because the Muslim woman did not let them know that she wore a hijab before being hired and that she needed to wear it for religious reasons. Because of this, the Court stated that the employer did not know up front that they would need to accommodate her beliefs so the EEOC would not be able to prove their case.

Many see this case as a huge failure in its ability to apply the Title VII law. The reason this law exists is to prohibit, or prevent however it can, the discrimination of individuals and their religious practices and beliefs. In the Abercrombie & Fitch case, it can be assumed that the employer would have known that the applicant, for religious reasons, wore a headscarf. Supposedly, the officials in the company who interviewed the woman knew from the beginning that she was a Muslim and would need to wear the headscarf to follow her beliefs. The argument was that the woman did not announce her need to be accommodated with the headscarf, but that seems to undermine the need for the statute. This decision seems to encourage companies not to accommodate the needs of others and to act prior to a prospective employee requesting an accommodation for their religion.

Though this ruling seemed unfair to the Muslim woman, hopefully it is a wakeup call to others to request the religious accommodations before they are hired and start their new job. By doing so, the employer cannot refuse.