Muslim woman sues Abercrombie & Fitch, claming she was denied job due to headscarf

Muslim woman sues Abercrombie & Fitch, claming she was denied job due to headscarf
Samantha Elauf (right), who was denied a sales job at Abercrombie & Fitch in 2008, standing with her mother Majda outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, on Feb 25, 2015.

WASHINGTON - The United States Supreme Court appeared on Wednesday to be supportive of a Muslim woman who claimed she was denied a sales job with fashion retailers Abercrombie & Fitch as a teen because of her Islamic headscarf.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal government agency, is suing Abercrombie on behalf of Ms Samantha Elauf, on the grounds she was discriminated against because of the company's dress code.

The clothing company is known for populating its stores with bare-chested male models and female staff in somewhat racy attire.

Its salespeople are required to conform to "Abercrombie style", defined as a "classic East Coast collegiate style".

The company does not allow employees to wear "caps" of any kind or the colour black, but scarves are not explicitly forbidden.

Any departure from the dress code is regarded as grounds for disciplinary action, including dismissal, on the basis that it can negatively impact the company's image, brand and sales.

But during a one-hour long hearing at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, several justices appeared to be troubled by the case.

Attorneys arguing Ms Elauf's case say she is protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars anyone from being refused employment based on their religion, unless the employer cannot accommodate the person's religious beliefs without adversely affecting business.

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