The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled to revive a lawsuit a Muslim American woman had brought against a clothing store that denied her a job because she wore a headscarf. Samantha Elauf had been awarded $20,000 by a jury, but an appeals court in Denver overturned it, saying Elauf never told Abercrombie & Fitch that she wore a hijab for religious reasons before the company hired her. On Monday, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the appeals court, where Elauf is likely to win.
While Elauf wore a headscarf during her interview in 2008 for a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she did not say she wanted the company to provide her a religious accommodation. According to Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion in the 8-1 ruling, Elauf, then 17, did not have to ask for religious accommodation in order to be protected from religious discrimination in hiring.
The Washington Post’s Simran Jeet Singh wrote that Elauf’s victory was a win for all Americans. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that the hiring manager at the company had deliberately lowered Elauf’s score after learning that she wore a headscarf.
Singh added that the decision would impact how America dealt with religious differences at work. Reuters referred to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on religious practices.
Abercombie & Fitch issued a statement that the court did not declare that discrimination had taken place at the workplace. The company said that it would determine its next steps.
“The ruling serves as an opportunity to improve existing legislation on workplace discrimination and religious freedom,” Singh wrote. “Americans are one step closer to not having to choose between their faith and their work.”
Justice Clarence Thomas was the sole dissenter in the Supreme Court's ruling.