Law Offices of Dan A. Atkerson

SCOTUS Rules for Elauf in Religious Discrimination Case

By Dan Atkerson on June 10, 2015

The high-profile case of Samantha Elauf reached a milestone on June 1 when the Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s ruling in favor of clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. Elauf originally sued the company when she was refused employment in one of its stores due to her wearing of a black headscarf, or hijab, in accordance with her religion.

What Title VII Says about Employment Decisions

Employers are required to reasonably accommodate the religious needs of employees. Justice Antonin Scalia, who authored the court’s opinion, believed that Abercrombie was aware of its need to accommodate Elauf’s beliefs but did not do so.

The lower courts argued that Elauf had not made Abercrombie aware of her need for a religious accommodation and therefore that the decision not to hire her could not have been due to religious discrimination, but eight of the nine Supreme Court Justices disagreed.

“Title VII forbids adverse employment decisions made with a forbidden motive,” Justice Scalia said from the bench, “whether this motive derives from actual knowledge, a well-founded suspicion or merely a hunch.” The case will now return to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which originally ruled against Elauf.

Religious discrimination in the workplace can affect several aspects of your job, including hiring, demotions, being passed over for promotions, undesirable assignment changes and even being fired. If you believe you are experiencing religious discrimination at work, gather as much evidence as you can and present it to an employment law attorney.

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