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Supreme Court rules in Abercrombie discrimination case

A just-breaking media report from earlier today notes that, thankfully, the same degree of tensions marking conflict that has emerged in some European countries between local Islamic and other populations has not emerged in the United States.

Diverse countries understandably have multiple groupings that are set off distinctively by race, ethnic heritage, religious beliefs and other characteristics. Most people believe that such differences, when embraced within larger society, contribute greatly to the enhanced culture and collective strength of a country.

In a sense, that viewpoint is what played out earlier this morning in a ruling issued by the United States Supreme Court regarding an employment discrimination case involving a young Muslim woman.

The woman was 17 when she applied for a sales position with the clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. in Oklahoma. She wore a head scarf (hijab) for religious purposes during her job interview. She was not hired, with the company explicitly noting that the scarf detracted from Abercrombie’s “look policy” applicable to sales personnel.

At no time during the interview did the applicant indicate in words that her donning of the hijab was for religious reasons, although that was her personal view. Abercrombie argued that the absence of a specific request to be accommodated on religious grounds rendered the company’s job denial a neutral and reasonable policy.

That was not the view taken by the nation’s highest court, which ruled 8-1 that the hijab essentially implied a need for accommodation, even if not stated to be for religious reasons, and that Abercrombie’s rejection was unlawful because the scarf was a motivating factor in its job denial.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the court’s opinion, stating that, “A request for accommodation … is not a necessary condition of liability.”

The decision is clearly a pro-employee ruling and one that will be embraced by groups with members who feel discrimination is unduly aimed at them. A number of non-Islamic religious groups backed the woman in her case, with representations filing court papers on their behalf.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought the discrimination case on behalf of the woman.

Source: Reuters, “U.S. top court rules for Muslim woman denied job over head scarf,” Lawrence Hurley, June 1, 2015


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