ADC Defends Right to Religious Accommodation in Supreme Court Case


American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

ADC Defends Right to Religious Accommodation in Supreme Court Case, EEOC v. Abercrombie

Washington, D.C. | | December 11, 2014 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.  In the brief, ADC supports the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s position that employees have a legally protected right to practice their religion in the workplace by wearing articles of faith, including the Muslim hijab. ADC’s brief can be accessed here. 

ADC is the only national Arab American civil rights organization.  Part of ADC’s core mission is to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of Arab Americans by responding to instances of employment discrimination. ADC is joined in this brief by other organizations supporting the right to religious accommodation, including KARAMAH (Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights), Cornell University Islamic Alliance for Justice (IAJ), and Penn State Muslim Students’ Association (MSA).

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants based on religion. It also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations in respect to an employee or prospective employee’s religious practice unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would cause undue hardship on the conduct of its business. 

In this case, Abercrombie refused to hire a Muslim woman who wore her hijab to her job interview. Abercrombie’s district manager told the store manager that the woman’s practice of wearing the hijab conflicted with Abercrombie’s “look policy.”  The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the woman must have expressly requested a religious accommodation in order for Abercrombie to be liable. However, the store manager who interviewed the Muslim woman for the position told her that she would be able to wear her hijab. Therefore, the Muslim woman was not even aware that her practice of wearing the hijab conflicted with Abercrombie’s “look policy.” 

ADC is concerned that if the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision is affirmed, the law will effectively authorize employers to discriminate based on religion under the guise of “look policies” that effectively exclude Arabs and Muslims from employment. First, ADC argues that the Tenth Circuit’s decision undermines religious protections of the Civil Rights Act. Second, ADC argues that wearing the hijab is a religious practice of Islam. Third, ADC argues that the Abercrombie’s “Look Policy” is discriminatory. Lastly, ADC argues that permitting employees to wear hijab will not have a burden on Abercrombie’s business.

Click here to read ADC’s amicus brief in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.

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