The Supreme Court Warns Employers that When It Comes to Religion, Don’t Speculate

By Matthew Stoloff

The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that an employer violated anti-discrimination laws by refusing to hire an applicant based on speculation over the need for religious accommodations.

On June 1, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court placed employers on notice that if they suspect a job applicant practices a particular religion and might need a workplace accommodation, a refusal to hire that applicant based on those suspicions violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The decision, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., is attached.

In the Abercrombie & Fitch case, Ms. Elauf wore a headscarf to her job interview at Abercrombie.  Based on her dress, the interviewer suspected – but did not know for certain – that Ms. Elauf was a Muslim. Although Ms. Elauf passed the interview, Abercrombie did not hire her because the headscarf violated the Company’s “Look Policy,” which prohibited employees from wearing head caps.

Contrary to popular media, the U.S. Supreme Court did not decide that Abercrombie violated the law. The Court only addressed the legal issue of whether an employer must know the job applicant’s religious beliefs in order to violate Title VII.  The Court found, “knowledge of a job applicant’s religion is not required to prove religious discrimination.” The mere suspicion that a job applicant practices a particular form of religion, coupled with the employer’s motive to avoid offering that applicant a religious accommodation, is sufficient to establish a cause of action for religious discrimination under Title VII.

The bottom line: discrimination on the basis of religion is unlawful. If a company maintains a “Look Policy” or requires a certain dress code or grooming requirement, religious accommodation issues will no doubt come into play.  If you need help navigating these complicated issues, seek legal counsel.

 

Disclaimer

No Legal Advice
The information and materials available on the Site (the “Materials”) are for informational purposes only and are not intended to and do not constitute legal advice or a solicitation for the formation of an attorney-client relationship. The information provided on this Site may not apply to your particular facts or circumstances; therefore, you should seek legal counsel prior to relying on any information that may be found on this Site. Furthermore, information provided on this Site may not reflect the most recent developments in the law and may not be applicable in your particular jurisdiction. Therefore, you should not act on any of the information contained on this Site until you obtain legal counsel from a qualified individual in your jurisdiction.

No attorney-client relationship is created through your use of the Site or your receipt of the Materials. We accept clients only in accordance with certain formal procedures, and render legal advice only after completion of those procedures. We do not seek to represent anyone desiring representation based upon viewing the Site in a state, territory or foreign country where the Site fails to comply with applicable laws and ethical rules. In addition, our attorneys do not seek to practice law in states, territories or foreign countries where they are not properly authorized to do so.

No Advertisement
This Site and the information contained herein are not intended to be an advertisement or solicitation of business, but they may be considered an advertisement in some jurisdictions.

Linking
You may link to any page of this Site, but no framing is permitted. Any link to this Site must be immediately followed by notice to JMS via email at tom@jmslawyers.com. In the event we deem your linking practices in relation to this Site to be inappropriate, we may provide you with notice concerning removal or modification of the inappropriate link, and you agree to comply with any and all requirements of JMS relating thereto.

Leave A Comment