A federal appeals court has dismissed claims by an Oklahoma woman who says she was not hired by retailer Abercrombie & Fitch because her headscarf conflicted with the company’s dress code, which has since been changed.
A federal judge in 2011 sided with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Samantha Elauf. The EEOC alleged that Elauf wasn’t hired in 2008 at an Abercrombie store in Tulsa’s Woodland Hills Mall because her hijab violated the retailer’s “Look Policy.”
That policy, the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, is intended to promote and showcase the Abercrombie brand, which “exemplifies a classic East Coast collegiate style of clothing.” Abercrombie contends that its Look Policy is critical to the health and vitality of its “preppy” and “casual” brand, the decision states.
The court said Elauf never told Abercrombie she needed a religious accommodation, even though she was wearing the headscarf during her interview.
“Ms. Elauf never informed Abercrombie prior to its hiring decision that she wore her headscarf or ‘hijab’ for religious reasons and that she needed an accommodation for that practice, due to a conflict between the practice and Abercrombie’s clothing policy,” the decision states.
A three-judge panel of the appellate court sent the case back to U.S. District Court in Tulsa with instructions to vacate its judgment in favor of EEOC and enter judgment in favor of Abercrombie.
The Ohio-based company changed its policy three years ago. It recently settled similar lawsuits in California.