In a ruling that could have wide implications for job applicants who dress according to religious reasons, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 today that Abercrombie and Fitch violated the civil rights of a Muslim woman in Tulsa, Okla., by denying her a job because of her headscarf, Reuters reports. Samantha Elauf, then 17, wore her hijab to her 2008 interview at Abercrombie Kids, but she never mentioned it—or the fact that she was Muslim—and neither did the interviewer, NewsOK notes. After the interview, however, she was told by a friend who worked there that she didn't get the job because of her hijab, which was apparently in violation of the company's stringent "Look Policy," which mandates, among other things, that employees can't wear black clothing or caps that might detract from its brand, per JD Supra.
Although a judge initially ruled in Elauf's favor, an appeals court sided with Abercrombie, noting Elauf never mentioned she was Muslim and would need a religious exemption from company policy, JD Supra notes. A civil rights attorney who spoke to Al Jazeera pointed out the sticky situation of a job applicant not wanting to bring up religion for fear of being discriminated against, and a potential employer avoiding the subject for fear of asking too-personal questions. But even though Elauf never mentioned that she wore her hijab for religious reasons, Justice Antonin Scalia today noted that Abercrombie "at least suspected" she did so, and "that is enough." (Abercrombie has claimed a Muslim wearing a headscarf cost it sales before.)