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(Reuters) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Muslim woman who filed a lawsuit after she was denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch Co. clothing store in Oklahoma because she wore a head scarf for religious reasons.
On a 8-1 vote, the court handed a win to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that sued the company on behalf of Samantha Elauf. She was denied a sales job in 2008 at an Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa when she was 17.
The legal question before the court was whether Ms. Elauf was required to ask for a religious accommodation in order for the company to be sued under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which, among other things, bans employment discrimination based on religious beliefs and practices.
Ms. Elauf was wearing a head scarf, or hijab, at the job interview but did not specifically say that, as a Muslim, she wanted the company to give her a religious accommodation.
The company denied Ms. Elauf the job on the grounds that wearing the scarf violated its “look policy” for members of the sales staff, a policy intended to promote the brand's East Coast collegiate image.
Muslim groups said in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Ms. Elauf that employment discrimination against Muslims is widespread in the United States. Often, the act of a woman wearing a head scarf is what triggers the discrimination, according to the brief. The EEOC has reported that Muslims file more employment claims about discrimination and the failure to provide religious accommodations than any other religious group.
Groups representing Christians, Jews and Sikhs also filed court papers backing Ms. Elauf.
An Illinois car dealership has been ordered to pay $100,000 to resolve a national origin and religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which it was charged with subjecting three Arab Muslim employees to a hostile work environment.