Abercrombie & Islam

BUSINESS

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is hearing arguments in a lawsuit against the giant clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. The suit claims religious discrimination in not hiring a job applicant wearing hijab. (International Business Times)

Learn more about varying interpretations of hijab and how secular governments have responded.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Abercrombie & Fitch promotes “a classic East Coast collegiate style of clothing.” Photograph by Rob Young, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

Abercrombie & Fitch promotes “a classic East Coast collegiate style of clothing.”
Photograph by Rob Young, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

Discussion Ideas

 

  • How did hijab conflict with the Abercrombie & Fitch dress code (“Look Policy”)?
    • The Look Policy prohibited employees from wearing head coverings.

 

  • What is religious accommodation? Can you think of an example of a business offering a religious accommodation to an employee or job applicant?
    • A religious accommodation is an exception in an employer’s work policy that would impose “minimal burden” on the operation of the business.
    • An example of religious accommodation may be to develop a work schedule that allows an employee not to work on his or her holy days. Religious accommodation also extends to non-religious accommodation. Excusing an atheist employee from a company prayer meeting is a religious accommodation.

 

 

  • Read through our short media spotlight on hijab. Companies are often influenced by government policy. How have different countries addressed hijab and religious accommodation?
    • In public spaces in the U.S., wearing hijab clothing is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech and freedom of religion).
    • Saudi Arabia and Iran require women to wear hijab clothing in public.
    • In France, students, teachers, and government workers are banned from wearing “overt religious displays,” including hijab, Jewish kippah (skullcaps), and large Christian crosses. Small charms are allowed.

 

 

 

  • Would a ruling against Abercrombie & Fitch force the retailer to hire all hijab-wearing applicants and abandon its Look Policy?
    • No! Job applicants would still have to meet employment criteria required by the employer. Protected classes are simply protected from discrimination, not given preferential treatment.
    • Many classes of people are not specifically protected by federal anti-discrimination laws. For instance: Obese job applicants, who may or may not be excellent Abercrombie “models” (what the company calls its sales associates), are not a protected class. That does not mean companies can legally discriminate against them, just that they are not protected under some key federal laws.

 

  • Will Abercrombie & Fitch have to change its Look Policy if SCOTUS decides for the prosecution?
    • No—they already have. The retailer settled two other discrimination cases related to hijab, and has already changed its Look Policy to acknowledge that headscarves can be accommodated in the workplace.

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

International Business Times: Abercrombie Goes To Court: Supreme Court Takes Up Religious Accommodation In The Workplace As Employment Discrimination Questions Linger

Nat Geo: Hijab: Veiled in Controversy

EEOC: What You Should Know About Workplace Religious Accommodation

(extra credit!) SCOTUSblog: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. and Argument preview: Faith and a workplace dress code

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