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Supreme Court to decide religious discrimination case against California clothier

Orange County residents are likely familiar with the clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. The retailer specializes in selling clothing inspired by the Southern California lifestyle and is among the many clothing companies that rely heavily upon image in their marketing and sales campaigns.

Upon applying for a job at the retailer seven years ago, a young Muslim woman named Samantha Elauf did not fit the company's preferred "look". The young woman, who wore a hijab during her interview, was not hired and she later filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asserting the retailer violated employment religious discrimination laws.

In the following years, lawyers for the retailer have argued that its decision related to Elauf's employment was based on its "look policy" and the fact that the hijab she wore to the interview violated this policy. During the past seven years, Elauf's attorneys have argued that the decision not to hire the young woman centered not only on the fact that she wore the hijab, but also what the hijab denotes; namely that she is a Muslim.

This isn’t the first time the retailer has been sued for its seemingly discriminatory policies. During 2003, Abercrombie was the subject of a lawsuit filed by minority students who accused the company of racial discrimination with regard to its so-called "look policy." The lawsuit took aim at the fact that the company favored hiring young, white and preppy-looking teens and young adults. In the years since, the company has taken steps to increase the diversity of its workforce and now contends that half of its employees are minorities.

In the Elauf case, the Supreme Court will likely be forced to debate issues related to religious accommodations and more clearly define steps employers must take to accommodate employees with regard to religious practices, dress and beliefs.

Source: USA Today, "Muslim's case takes 'look' at Abercrombie & Fitch policy," Richard Wolf, Feb. 24, 2015

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