United States Supreme Court Rules To Protect Religious Practices Of Workers

On June 1, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting religious expression in the workplace by concluding that an employer had an obligation to accommodate, within reason, the religious practices of workers and applicants unless the practices imposed an “undue hardship.” In its ruling, the Supreme Court stated that “[r]eligious practice is one of the protected characteristics that cannot be accorded disparate treatment and must be accommodated.”

The case arose when a female high school student was rejected from a position with Abercrombie & Fitch because she wore a head scarf, or hijab, as mandated by her religion. Although the applicant was otherwise sufficiently qualified for the job, wearing a head scarf violated Abercrombie’s applicable (and often maligned) dress code. Moreover, the applicant was not even aware of the dress code. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the suit on the student’s behalf, claiming that the company’s use of its dress policy to reject an applicant violated federal law prohibiting religious discrimination in the workplace.

Importantly, the Supreme Court stated that an applicant or employee did not have to show that the employer was motivated by bias. Therefore, Abercrombie & Fitch could be liable even if it did not actually know that the objectionable practice – here, wearing the head scarf – was related to a religious practice.

This ruling is an important one in protecting religious expression for employees and applicants in the workplace. If you feel that you have been subjected to similar discrimination, contact the Law Offices of Damian Christian Shammas, LLC for a consultation.