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Supreme Court Decides Abercrombie Case
By: Charles Watson

Ms. Elauf had applied for a position in the Abercrombie store in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was interviewed by the assistant store manager there while wearing a headscarf. The assistant store manager used the company’s system for evaluating employees and determined that she was qualified to be hired. Ms. Elauf never said that she wore the headscarf for any particular reason. The assistant manager was concerned, however, because she knew that wearing the headscarf conflicted with the company’s Look Policy. So, the assistant manager sought guidance from her store manager, and then ultimately from the district manager, who confirmed that wearing the headscarf violated the Look Policy, as would any headwear, “religious or otherwise.” Critically, the assistant manager told the district manager that she believed Ms. Elauf wore the headscarf for religious purposes. Ms. Elauf was not hired.

 The EEOC brought this claim on behalf of Ms. Elauf in federal court in Oklahoma. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the employee, and after a trial on damages awarded her $20,000. The Tenth Circuit, which includes the federal district court in Kansas, reversed the Oklahoma district court ruling and awarded Abercrombie summary judgment. The Tenth Circuit found that an employer is not liable under Title VII for failing to accommodate a religious practice unless and until the applicant makes a request --- and provides the employer with actual knowledge of – their need for an accommodation. The matter was appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed and remanded the Tenth Circuit      Continue Reading...

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