Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores

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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued February 25, 2015
Decided June 1, 2015
Full case nameEqual Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.
Docket nos.14–86
Citations575 U.S. ___ (more)
135 S. Ct. 2028; 192 L. Ed. 2d 35
Prior history798 F. Supp. 2d 1272 (N.D. Okla. 2011); reversed, 731 F.3d 1106 (10th Cir. 2013); cert. granted, 135 S. Ct. 44 (2014).
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Sonia Sotomayor · Elena Kagan
Case opinions
MajorityScalia, joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan
Laws applied
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, 575 U.S. ___ (2015), was a United States Supreme Court case regarding a Muslim-American woman, Samantha Elauf, who was refused a job at Abercrombie & Fitch in 2008 because she wore a head scarf, which conflicted with the company's dress code.[1] The Supreme Court of the United States ruled 8-1 in Elauf's favor on June 1, 2015.[2]


In 2008, Elauf, then 17 years old, applied for a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Tulsa, Oklahoma. During her interview with the company, she was wearing a head scarf, but did not say why.[1] The woman interviewing her, Heather Cooke, was initially impressed with Elauf, but also concerned about her head scarf.[3] Cooke had told the manager of the store that she thought Elauf was wearing the scarf for religious reasons, but the manager responded that employees were not allowed to wear hats at work, and so declined to hire her.[4]

In 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Abercrombie & Fitch on Elauf's behalf.[5] This led to a lawsuit in a federal district court that resulted in Elauf receiving $20,000 in damages.[6][7] However, this decision was later reversed by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of Abercrombie & Fitch on the basis that Elauf did not provide the company with information about her need for an accommodation.[8][7]

Opinion of the Court[edit]

On June 1, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled 8–1 in favor of Elauf. In an opinion by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court held that Elauf did not have to explicitly request an accommodation to obtain protection from Title VII, which prohibits religious discrimination in hiring.[1]

Justice Samuel Alito wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment, stating that evidence of Abercrombie's knowledge of Elauf's religious practice was sufficient grounds to rule against Abercrombie.[9] Justice Clarence Thomas concurred in part and dissented in part.[1] Thomas agreed with the majority's interpretation that Title VII protects against "intentional discrimination" against a particular religious group, but felt that Abercrombie did not really engage in that here because their dress code was a religion-neutral policy that affected all potential applicants.[10] This ruling revived the lawsuit Elauf had filed against the company.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Liptak, Adam (1 June 2015). "Muslim Woman Denied Job Over Head Scarf Wins in Supreme Court". New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b Barnes, Robert (1 June 2015). "Supreme Court allows suit by Muslim woman who says headscarf cost her a job". Washington Post. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  3. ^ "US Supreme Court appears in favour of headscarf claim". BBC News. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  4. ^ Glenza, Jessica (2 October 2014). "Supreme court to rule on Abercrombie & Fitch 'religious bias' over hijab". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  5. ^ Gregory, Sean (23 September 2009). "Abercrombie Faces a Muslim-Headscarf Lawsuit". Time. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  6. ^ Hurley, Lawrence (1 June 2015). "U.S. top court backs Muslim woman denied job over head scarf". Reuters. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  7. ^ a b Naylor, Brian (1 June 2015). "Supreme Court Rules For Woman Denied Abercrombie & Fitch Job Over Headscarf". NPR. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  8. ^ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, 731 F.3d 1106 (10th Cir. 2013).
  9. ^ EEOC, slip op. at 2 (Alito, S., concurring).
  10. ^ EEOC, slip op. at 5-6 (Thomas, C., dissenting).

External links[edit]