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Employment suit against Abercrombie reaches Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an employment discrimination lawsuit involving clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch’s decision not to hire a teenage girl as a sales associate because she wore a headscarf for religious reasons. The woman says she was the victim of hiring discrimination, but Abercrombie says the headscarf would have conflicted with its “Look Policy.”

Abercrombie’s “Look Policy” applies to its “models,” the company’s term for its sales associates. Models wear Abercrombie’s apparel to help advertise it to shoppers. At the time the plaintiff applied for a job, the Look Policy prohibited models from wearing headscarves, even as a religious practice.

The plaintiff, now in her 20s, is a Muslim. When she applied to become a model at an Abercrombie store, an assistant manager considered her a good candidate for the job. But when she checked with the store’s manager about whether they could accommodate the plaintiff’s headscarf, the manager refused.

The plaintiff complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued Abercrombie on her behalf. Federal anti-employment discrimination law forbids employers from not hiring job applicants due to their religion. An exception exists for employers if they can show that they cannot accommodate the applicant’s religious practices.

So, the question in this case is whether an Abercrombie model would be able to do his or her job while wearing a religious garment on his or her head. Abercrombie has amended its Look Policy since the incident in question, but is defending its right to keep its models from “wearing inconsistent clothing.”

Americans should be able to pursue any job they want, regardless of their religious beliefs.