Abercrombie & Fitch, a well-known American teen retailer, faced tough questions from the US Supreme Court last month while defending suit for its hiring practices in accordance with its corporate “look policy.” The case, entitled EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch Stores, Inc., arose from facts surrounding the retailer’s alleged failure to hire a young woman because of her religious apparel. Samantha Elauf, a seventeen-year-old applicant, wore a head scarf, or hijab, to her interview because of her religious practices. Abercrombie has a clearly-defined “look policy”, which strictly prohibits hats or caps in the workplace. Although the employee who interviewed Elauf told her district manager she believed Elauf wore her hijab for religious reasons, she had no “actual knowledge” of the reason for Elauf’s hijab, and Elauf was ultimately not selected for the position. The EEOC filed suit on Elauf’s behalf, claiming Abercrombie’s practices violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court is set to rule on the Constitutionality of Abercrombie’s practices, and specifically its “look policy”, in June 2015.
It’s important for each employer to take a closer look at the dress code or physical appearance policies they establish for their employees, and seek the advice of counsel to ensure all employment practices are compliant with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations.