With its strong statement that Title VII requires employers to assure the preferential treatment of religious employees and applicants, EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores joins a long line of Supreme Court cases that have rewritten workplace practices. Here are the immediate takeaways for employers, employees, and job seekers.
This expert analysis by TELG managing principal R. Scott Oswald was published by Law360 on June 2, 2015. The full article is available at Law360. (Site requires paid subscription.)
In EEOC v. Abercrombie Ruling, A Wide Range Of Winners
On June 1, 2015, in an 8-1 decision in U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court put employers on notice that they may be held liable for rejecting prospective employees based on their apparent religious practices — even if an applicant never mentions religion.
The decision was a victory first of all for Samantha Elauf, a young Muslim job seeker who interviewed in a headscarf, or hijab, that supposedly clashed with the preppy retailer’s image. Many teenage job applicants would have taken Abercrombie’s rejection as the way of the world, choked back their gall and moved on.
Instead Elauf brought her complaint to the EEOC, and by doing so has prompted a clear formalization by Justice Antonin Scalia of the “favored treatment” of religious practices in the workplace.