201606.24
0

Employer’s Can’t Refuse Reasonable Religious Accommodations When Hiring Potential Employees

Employer’s Can’t Refuse Reasonable Religious Accommodations When Hiring Potential Employees

By: Matthew Brotz

Imagine being denied a job or being fired because part of your attire speaks to a personally held religious belief. In today’s progressive society it may seem unlikely. But, think again. Not long ago, this happened to a young woman named Samantha Elauf.   After hearing her case, the Supreme Court’s decision in June 2015 stated that an employer is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, if they fail to hire a potential employee due their “look” attributed to their religious belief. See., EEOC v.. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. 135 S.Ct. 2028 (2015).

Samantha Elauf, a practicing Muslim who dons a headscarf, was not hired by Abercrombie & Fitch simply because management determined her headscarf violated the store’s “look policy.” In response, Abercrombie & Fitch stated that their refusal to hire Elauf was not discriminatory; citing that the company’s “look policy” was neutral and did not ban all headwear solely for religious purposes. Additionally, Abercrombie & Fitch contended that they did not discriminate, as Ms. Elauf’s did not explicitly state her desire for an accommodation that would permit her to wear a headscarf at work. Justice Scalia, author of the court’s concurring opinion, shot down both notions as extraneous in regards to the interpretation and application of Title VII.

The Supreme Court’s decision reinforces that it is unlawful for an employer to:

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Title VII of  the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et. seq. (1964).

As Justice Scalia further noted, motivation and knowledge are distinct concepts. (emphasis added). Therefore, an employer who is  merely motivated by “suspicions” over religious accommodations, such as allowing an employee to wear a headscarf, is in violation of Title VII, regardless of whether this motivation is “known” to the employer.

Moreover, Justice Scalia concluded, “Abercrombie’s argument that a neutral policy cannot constitute ‘intentional discrimination’ may make sense in other contexts. But Title VII does not demand mere neutrality with regard to religious practices—that they be treated no worse than other practices.” Whether a policy can be considered “neutral” is not relevant here. What determines if an action violates Title VII is whether or not the underlying motivation in Abercrombie & Fitch’s decision to reject Elauf was over the accommodation of a religious practice. The Supreme Court made it clear that religious considerations are forbidden to be a motivation when making hiring decisions.