Work it Out Blog

Employers: Expect to Become More Proactive About Religious Accommodation

Jun 15, 2015 by Jill C. McQueen

When a Muslim teenager applied for a sales position with clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, she received high marks from the assistant manager who interviewed her.  Samantha Elauf was not hired, however, because she wore a hijab.  The company contended the traditional head scarf violated its “look policy”.  The EEOC filed suit alleging religious discrimination.

Abercrombie argued that it did not discriminate because it had no actual knowledge of a conflict between its dress code and the applicant’s religious practices. It maintained that it was up to the applicant to ask for an accommodation on religious grounds, something Elauf did not do during her interview.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the EEOC.

In an 8-1 opinion, the Court held that job seekers do not have to prove that the employer knew with certainty that an accommodation would be required for religious reasons.  Instead, an applicant need only show that the need for an accommodation--whether confirmed or not--was a motivating factor for the employer’s decision.

Could years of litigation and negative publicity have been avoided in this case?  Employers should review their hiring procedures now and consider additional training for individuals involved in the selection process. For more information on employee selection and reasonable accommodation, contact Jill McQueen at, or your Day Ketterer attorney at



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