By Barry M. Willoughby
At our recent Annual Seminar, we discussed, EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., an action involving alleged religious discrimination in connection with a refusal to hire that was then pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Attendees at the seminar will recall that the case involved an applicant for employment at Abercrombie who was turned down based on the Company’s “look policy,” because she wore a head scarf. Although the interview for this position did not involve any discussion of whether the applicant wore the scarf for religious reasons, and/or whether she would require an accommodation to allow her to wear the scarf while at work, the EEOC investigation established that the company’s representatives believed that the applicant was wearing the scarf for religious reasons and refused to hire her on that basis.
On June 1, 2015, as we predicted, the Court issued its Opinion finding that the employer had indeed violated Title VII’s prohibition against religious discrimination. Significantly, the Court ruled that actual knowledge of the employee’s need for a religious accommodation is not required. Instead, the Court found that the test is whether the employer’s decision was, in fact, motivated by illegal discrimination under Title VII.