Denial of job to Muslim woman for wearing headscarf, held improper

Court of United States- In
the instant case, where a Muslim woman was denied a job because the headscarf
that she wore pursuant to her reli­gious obligations conflicted with the
respondent’s employee dress policy, the Court with a majority of 8:1 reversed
the Tenth Cir­cuit decision awarding the respondent summary judgment on the
ground that failure-to-accommodate liability attaches only when the applicant
provides the employer with actual knowledge of his need for an accommodation.
Scalia J., delivering the opinion of the Court explained in detail the contours
of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which, inter alia, prohibits a prospective employer from
refusing to hire an applicant because of the applicant’s religious prac­tice
when the practice could be accommodated without undue hard­ship. The Court held
that the rule for
disparate-treatment claims based on a failure to accommodate a religious
practice is straightfor­ward i.e an employer may not make an applicant’s
religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions and for the
applicability of disparate treatment provision an applicant need only show that
his need for an accommoda­tion was a motivating factor in the employer’s

The facts of the present case state, Samantha Elauf, a
practicing Muslim who wears a headscarf consistent with her religious
obligations, applied for a position in the respondent company. She was
interviewed and acquired the rating that qualified her to be hired. However,
she was denied the job due to the fact that the headscarf she wore might go
against the Look Policy that governed the employee’s dress. The Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued the respondent on Elauf’s behalf
claim­ing that its refusal to hire her violated Title VII. While, the
respondent’s claimed that an applicant cannot show disparate treatment without
first showing that an employer has “actual knowledge” of the applicant’s need
for an accommodation as in this case. Hence, the main contention was whether the prohibition under Title VII
applies only where an applicant has informed the employer of his need for an

The Court further observed that motive and knowledge are
separate concepts and an employer who has actual knowledge of the need for an
accommodation does not violate Title VII by refusing to hire an applicant if
avoiding that accommodation is not his motive.
But, an employer who acts with the motive of avoiding accommodation violates
Title VII even if he has no more than an unsubstantiated suspicion that
accommodation would be needed.
[Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores,
Inc., 575 U.S.
__ (2015), decided on 01.06.2015]
Source: Legal news India

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