US court rules in favour of Muslim woman denied job for head scarf

  • Reuters, Washington
  • Updated: Jun 02, 2015 00:05 IST

The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favour of a Muslim woman who filed a lawsuit after she was denied a job at a clothing store in Oklahoma.

On a 8-1 vote, the court handed a win to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that sued the company on behalf of Samantha Elauf. She was denied a sales job in 2008 at an Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa because she wore a head scarf for religious reasons.

The legal question before the court was 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, among other things, bans employment discrimination based on religious beliefs and practices.

Elauf was wearing a head scarf, or hijab, at the job interview but did not specifically say that, as a Muslim, she wanted the company to give her a religious accommodation.

The company denied Elauf the job on the grounds that wearing the scarf violated its "look policy" for members of the sales staff, a policy intended to promote the brand's East Coast collegiate image.

Muslim groups said in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Elauf that employment discrimination against Muslims is widespread in the United States. Often, the act of a woman wearing a head scarf is what triggers the discrimination, according to the brief.

The EEOC has reported that Muslims file more employment claims about discrimination and the failure to provide religious accommodations than any other religious group.

Groups representing Christians, Jews and Sikhs also filed court papers backing Elauf.

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