Abercrombie goes to Supreme Court

Abercrombie & Fitch’s dress code case is heading to the Supreme Court.  On Thursday, the Supreme Court decided that it would hear an appeal filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on whether Abercrombie can disqualify workers from getting a job because they want to wear a headscarf for religious reasons, or hijab.

Back in 2009, the EEOC sued Abercrombie on behal f of a Muslim woman who was denied a job as a salesperson because her headscarf violated the company’s dress code.  While she did wear a headscarf to her interview, she did not specifically state that she wanted a religious accommodation to wear it while working.

The US District court of the Northern District of Oklahoma initially granted summary judgment to the EEOC, but the 10th circuit reversed.  The issue is whether employers are liable for firing an employee or refusing to hire an applicant only if they have explicit or actual knowledge from the employee or job applicant that a ‘religious accommodation’ or exception to its policies is required.

The EEOC argued before the 10th circuit that the court “erred in holding that employers cannot be liable for failure to provide religious accommodation under Title VII unless they have received explicit notice giving rise to ‘particularized, actual knowledge’ of the conflict directly from the applicant or employee.”

Abercrombie argued that notice is required, that it did not have this notice, and that it basically did not know whether the scarf was worn for religious reasons in the first place.

Apparently, Abercrombie has a notoriously strict dress code policy that requires its sales associates to follow specific guidelines.  Jeans need to be cuffed a certain way, highlights have to be just right, jewelry must be simple and classic.  This is not the first time Abercrombie’s dress code policy has caused legal problems for the retail giant.  In 2013, it agreed to make changes to its dress code as part of a settlement with two religious discrimination cases – precisely over the issue of headscarves.