US clothing company in court for not hiring Muslim in hijab

(Photo: REUTERS / Lucas Jackson)A pedestrian walks past shoppers lined up to wait for the opening of an Abercrombie & Fitch store in New York, November 26, 2013.

U.S. clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is under fire after it was accused of refusing to hire a Muslim woman because she was wearing a religious headscarf which conflicts with the company's dress code.

Samantha Elauf's accusation was brought to court by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOOC), The Guardian reported October 2.

In 2008, Elauf was interviewed at the Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa, Oklahoma to become a part time sales worker.

Interviewer Heather Cooke initially gave Elauf a high score despite her wearing a black hijab which she said she has worn since she was 13.

But when Cooke consulted with a district manager, Elauf was given a low score in the "appearance and sense of style" category.

The manager allegedly told Cooke that employees are not allowed to wear "hats" at work.

The EEOC sued on Elauf's behalf and a federal judge ruled against the company. But the 10th US circuit court of appeals reversed that decision.


Abercrombie said Elauf should have explained the wearing of the headscarf is based on her religion.

"It is undisputed that Samantha Elauf did not inform Abercrombie that her religious beliefs required her to wear a headscarf when she was at work.

"It is axiomatic that an employer must have actual notice that an applicant's mandatory religious practices conflict with an employment requirement," attorneys for the company said.

But government lawyers argued that job applicants are not aware that their religious practices may cause conflict in some company policies.

In Elauf's case, she never requested a concession because she didn't know about the "look policy."

This is not the first time that Abercrombie & Fitch has faced discrimination charges.

In 2013, the company has settled two other EEOC suits filed in California were complainants were both awarded $71,000 in a joint settlement in September 2013.

This is not the only case brought against Abercrombie & Fitch for religious discrimination.

Halla Banafa, a Muslim woman who applied to an Abercrombie Kids store in California, was not hired after being asked about her hijab during an interview. Abercrombie argued that accommodating Banafa's headscarf would place an undue hardship on its business.

Umme-Hani Khan was fired from Hollister, an Abercrombie subsidiary after she said she was dismissed for wearing a headscarf.

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