Search Site
Menu
Must I Mention a Religious Accommodation During My Job Interview?

The United States Supreme Court is looking at this very issue in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, No. 14-86. This case arises out of a 2008 incident whereby now plaintiff, Samantha Elauf, a Muslim applicant, sought employment with Abercrombie & Fitch. At the time, Abercrombie & Fitch maintained a “Look Policy” which generally instructs employees to present themselves, in dress, in accordance with the stores “East Coast-collegiate brand.” If an employee violates the Look Policy, such as dressing in black clothes and caps, doing so is grounds for termination or in Elauf’s case, a refusal to hire.

Because of her Muslim religion, Elauf wore headscarves, or hijabs, as they are known which comprise a veil that essentially covers the head and chest. While Elauf asked some friends who were familiar with Abercrombie & Fitch’s Look Policy whether her wearing a hijab might present a problem, the consensus seemed to be that it would be okay as long as it wasn’t black in color. Elauf accordingly went forward with the interview.

At no time during the interview did the topic of religion come up. Indeed, despite Elauf wearing a black hijab throughout the interview, no questions were asked and the manager reasonably assumed Elauf was Muslim and would likely wear the hijab while working for Abercrombie & Fitch if offered a position.

After the interview, Abercrombie & Fitch decided not to offer Elauf a position. And, it was rather evident to Elauf that the reason she was not offered the job was because she wore a hijab in violation of the Look Policy.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a complaint against Abercrombie & Fitch alleging violation of Title VII.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s religion. 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The term “religion” includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief. 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e(j)

At first consideration, the District Court granted the EEOC’s motion for summary judgment finding it had established a prima facie case for discrimination and shifting the burden to Abercrombie & Fitch to demonstrate that it would suffer undue hardship in accommodating Elauf. The Tenth Circuit reversed and granted summary judgment to Abercrombie & Fitch finding Elauf never expressly asked for a religious accommodation.

So the question to the United States Supreme Court is whether the employer must have actual knowledge of a religious practice (i.e., express notice from the employee or applicant) or if a hunch or reasonable suspicion is sufficient where an employee seeks religious accommodation under Title VII. We will wait and see what the Supreme Court rules, although my guess is the employer should not be left to speculate or play fortuneteller as to the employee’s desires and beliefs. The employee (or applicant) should speak up and if a religious accommodation is what he/she wants then a direct request should be required. What do you think?

This story was originally reported on in The Legal Intelligencer, Thursday April 9, 2015, Vol. P. 3461 at p.7.

Contact us

Please fill out the form below and one of our attorneys will contact you.

Quick Contact Form

Client Testimonials
  • "I had a slip and fall in a grocery store and injured my shoulder to the point of needing surgery to repair. The Law Firm made contact with them to make restitution on my behalf. After going back and forth… they awarded me a settlement for my pain and medical bills. The [Firm] were super easy to work with and I would definitely… use them again. I was and am very satisfied with the end result. THANK YOU!"  -Bob S.

  • "When I got hurt at work I didn’t know what I was going to do being a single mom of three. It was very scary and only weeks before Christmas to boot. I was referred to the Pagano Law Firm by my mom and it was the best decision. The Firm took me under their wing and assured me everything would be okay. They handled everything and kept me posted along the way. I am so happy to be back on my feet in more ways than one… my case was handled with such care and the end result was more than I expected. I would recommend the Pagano Law Firm to everyone I know!"  -Jill

  • "We reached out to the Pagano Law Firm after a serious car accident. At the time it was not clear the extent of the injuries and what it would take to make us whole. The Pagano Law Firm attorneys were diligent in the handling of the case and advocated for us not just as clients but as friends. They were considerate and professional throughout the two years it took to bring the case to a close. Ultimately, we were successful in reaching a resolution that surpassed our expectations. We are very grateful to Marlo… and would recommend the firm for any legal concerns."  -M.V.

  • "Excellent. Awesome – very efficient. Thanks for everything."  -J.H.

  • "The Pagano Law Firm put our minds at ease in a difficult situation for us. They made us feel like family & were there with answers to any questions. They made our experience in a difficult situation a good one. Very thankful for the Pagano Law Firm and everyone there. Highly Recommend."  -Richard R.

  • "he Pagano Law Firm was so understanding and supportive in helping with our unexpected situation. We were so grateful to be working with such caring, supportive people. Thank you for all your help and support."  -M.R.

Our Office
  • Media Office
    115 West State Street
    Suite 401
    Media, Pennsylvania 19063
    Phone: 484-442-8750
    Fax: 484-442-8742
Awards & Affiliations