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EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores

Justia Summary

Abercrombie refused to hire Elauf, a practicing Muslim, because the headscarf that she wore pursuant to her religious obligations conflicted with Abercrombie’s employee dress policy. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit, alleging violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which 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 EEOC prevailed in the district court. The Tenth Circuit reversed, holding that failure-to-accommodate liability attaches only when the applicant provides the employer with actual knowledge of his need for an accommodation. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Title VII’s disparate-treatment provision requires Elauf to show that Abercrombie “fail[ed] . . . to hire” her “because of ” “[her] religion” (including a religious practice), 42 U.S.C. 2000e–2(a)(1). Rather than imposing a knowledge standard, the statute prohibits certain motives, regardless of the state of the actor’s knowledge. An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions. Title VII allows failure-to-accommodate challenges to be brought as disparate-treatment claims and gives favored treatment to religious practices, rather than demanding that religious practices be treated no worse than other practices.

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