OKLAHOMA – Writing the final chapter in years-long case, Abercrombie & Fitch has dropped the appeal to a court ruling in favor of a Muslim woman in hijab, paying about $25K to settle the case.
“Samantha Elauf’s persistence was a big part of this success,” Veronica Laizure, a civil rights attorney with the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was quoted by Tulsa World on Wednesday, July 22.
Elauf case dates back to 2008 when she applied for a job as Abercrombie & Fitch sales associate in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Donning a headscarf, the then 17-year-old girl was rejected for failing to look like “model” employee according to the retailer “look policy.”
Bringing her case to the US Supreme Court, the federal government charges that the retailer discriminated “when it intentionally refused to hire Samantha Elauf because of her hijab, after inferring correctly that Elauf wore the hijab for religious reasons.”
Backed by the US Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, Abercrombie & Fitch contends that employers should not be forced to inquire about a job applicant’s religion, for fear of appearing to discriminate.
The court examined whether Elauf was required to ask for a religious accommodation in order for the company to be sued under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans employment discrimination based on religious beliefs and practices.
In a victory to freedoms, the US Supreme Court ruled June 1, in favor of a of Elauf who was denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch Co for putting on a Hijab.
The ruling, which was appealed later, was deemed a victory to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that sued the company on behalf of Elauf.
As Abercrombie paid $25,670 in damages to Elauf and $18,983 in court costs, Laizure said there are “two big take-aways from this case.”
The first is that people who feel they are denied a job for discriminatory reasons should not hesitate to report it to the EEOC or a civil rights organization, she said.
On his part, an Abercrombie & Fitch spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have resolved this matter … and to be moving forward.
“A&F remains focused on ensuring the company has an open-minded and tolerant workplace environment for all current and future store associates. We have made significant enhancements to our store associate policies, including the replacement of the ‘look policy’ with a new dress code that allows associates to be more individualistic; changed our hiring practices to not consider attractiveness; and changed store associates’ titles from ‘model’ to ‘brand representative’ to align with their new customer focus.
“A&F has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and consistent with the law, has granted numerous religious accommodations when requested, including hijabs,” the spokesperson said.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Abercrombie has repeatedly faced legal trouble because its discrimination policies.
In September 2013, a federal judge in California ruled that the fashion mogul has violated work anti-discrimination laws when it fired a veiled Muslim woman, Hani Khan, from San Mateo store.
In a similar case in 2008, a Muslim woman said a manager at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Milpitas, California, had written “not Abercrombie look” on her interview form and refused to hire her after she applied for a job.
In 2010, US authorities sued the company for discrimination over the incident.