Thursday, October 2, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Supreme Court to take up issue of workplace religious accommodation

It’s day one for the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014-2015 term, and the Court has already made big employment law news.

The Court has accepted the the appeal filed by the EEOC in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. 

This case, which concerned whether Title VII’s religious accommodation provision required the retailer to grant an exception to its “Look Policy” for a hijab-wearing job applicant, has an interesting procedural history. The EEOC won summary judgment at the trial court. The 10th Circuit then reversed, and issued summary judgment for the employer, concluding:

The EEOC did not satisfy the second element of its prima facie case, as there is no genuine dispute of material fact that Ms. Elauf never informed Abercrombie prior to its hiring decision that her practice of wearing her hijab stemmed from her religious beliefs and that she needed an accommodation for this (inflexible) practice.

Let’s hope for some concrete guidance from the Court on this timely and perplexing issue.

I’ll have much more to say about this case next year after the court holds oral argument. In the meantime, for more on “look policies” and religious accommodations, see my earlier thoughts: