Supreme Court backs Muslim woman denied job over headscarf

US Supreme Court decides Muslim woman denied of job application over headscarf faced religious freedom violation

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The US Supreme court ruled on Monday that religious freedom right of a Muslim woman was violated when her job application at clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch was denied because she was wearing a headscarf.

Eight of the nine justices in the Supreme Court decided that although she did not ask for a religious accommodation saying she was Muslim, Samantha Elauf, who was wearing a headscarf during her job interview in 2008, was denied of job opportunity because of her religious choice.

In an opinion explaining the court's ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia said Abercrombie "at least suspected" that Elauf wore a headscarf for religious reasons and it was a motivating factor in Abercrombie's decision for not hiring her.

Headscarf is a dress considered as a religious necessity and thus worn by many Muslim women.

"Observance of my faith should not have prevented me from getting a job. I am glad that I stood up for my rights, and happy that the EEOC was there for me and took my complaint to the courts," Elauf said in a statement issued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that sued the clothing company on behalf of Elauf.

Abercrombie had denied Elauf’s application for a sales position at a kid’s wear store in Tulsa, Oklahoma citing company’s "look policy."

Abercrombie was initially ordered to pay $20,000 to Elauf by a federal district court but the decision was overturned by 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver leading to Supreme Court.

"We welcome this historic ruling in defence of religious freedom at a time when the American Muslim community is facing increased levels of Islamophobia," said Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Muslim groups say religious discrimination is very common in workplaces especially against women.

The EEOC corroborates the argument saying Muslims have the lead in religious groups in files about discrimination in employment and failure to provide religious accommodations.

During the proceedings, groups representing Christians, Jews and Sikhs submitted court papers supporting Elauf.

The decision came as the latest example of recent Supreme Court rulings in favour of the religious freedom advocates.

The court last year ruled in favour of a Christian-owned company that was objecting to provide health insurance coverage for birth control for women on religious grounds.

TRTWorld and agencies