Supreme Court makes ruling on religious accommodation issue

On Behalf of Dunlap Fiore, LLC |

Louisiana residents should be interested to know that the Supreme Court has finally ruled in a case that will set precedence on matters concerning religious accommodation in the workplace. The Court has sided with a Muslim woman who alleged that she was discriminated against by a prospective employer, specifically Abercrombie and Fitch — she wears a headscarf.

The lawsuit was brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the Muslim woman back in 2008 after she was denied employment. When the woman inquired to the reason she was denied employment, she was informed by a representative from the company that it was because she wears headscarf and it did not conform to the company’s dress code.

Initially, a lower court sided with Abercrombie and Fitch because the prospective employee did not indicate to the company during the interview process that she wore the headscarf for religious reasons. The lower court rejected the religious discrimination allegations because in their view the prospective employee did not clearly and unequivocally indicate to the interviewer that she wore the headscarf due to her religious belief. Thus, the company did not know that the headscarf was a form of religious self-expression.

The ruling was appealed and taken to the Supreme Court who disagreed with the previous ruling and sided with the woman thereby ruling in her favor. In its ruling the Court basically made it clear that if the company just thinks that a prospective employee needs some sort of religious accommodation, and based on that thought denies an applicant employment then it is discrimination.

The ramifications this ruling will have on religious accommodation in the workplace will be far reaching. Employers in Louisiana need to understand how this recent Supreme Court ruling affects them, and what steps they can when it comes to religious accommodations in the workplace. Understanding these legal rules can help to avoid issues in the future.

Source: MPR News, “Supreme Court’s headscarf decision: What you need to know,” Emily Kaiser, June 4, 2015