The Supreme Court Will Decide If Abercrombie & Fitch Discriminated Against This Hijab-Wearing Fashion Blogger
Fact: Almost all of us have lied during a job interview. Whether we overstated the amount of words we could type per minute, or how fast we fold sweaters, we can all empathize with telling a tiny fib to help us get hired.
But what if there was something about you that you were proud of and not lying about -- like the fact that you wear certain religious garb -- and you didn't get the job because of it? Would you think that was fair?
The Supreme Court is hearing a case just like this on Wednesday.
Abercrombie & Fitch is known for their strict employee dress code and "look policy," but that didn't phase then 17-year-old Samantha Elauf, who showed up to her 2008 interview wearing a traditional Muslim headscarf, aka a hijab.
According to court documents, during the interview process at the Tulsa, OKhlahoma store, the manager interviewing Samantha never asked about her hijab, and just assumed that she was Muslim. When the manager was discussing Samantha's interview with her superior, the superior told the manager to lower Samantha's score, due to the hijab.
While there are certain laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that should protect Samantha from being discriminated against because of her religion, the Abercrombie employees involved are claiming that they didn't even know Samantha was Muslim, because she never flat-out told them during her interview.
According to a brief filed by Abercrombie, it was up to Samantha to tell her interviewer that the headscarf was religious. The brief states: "[A]n applicant or employee cannot remain silent before the employer regarding the religious nature of his or her conflicting practice and need for an accommodation and still hope to prevail in a religion-accommodation case."
On the flip side, a lot of religious groups have come to Samantha's defense, including the non-profit public-interest legal institute Becket Fund For Religious Liberty. Eric Baxter, who is Senior Council at the firm told U.S. News & World Report that Abercrombie isn't being totally honest, "They’re trying to play dumb and the court shouldn’t allow that."
This isn't the first time the brand -- known for it's ab-tastic catalogues and all-American appeal -- has been in hot water for discrimination claims. In 2004 they settled sexual and gender discrimination case with thousands of female plaintiffs to the tune of $40 million. And their sister brand, Hollister, was sued by a 19-year-old woman in 2011 because she was asked to take off her hijab and refused.
Abercrombie's website has a section focusing on diversity, including the statement: "Diversity is about who you are as an individual – what's seen and unseen. It also includes the rich differences between individuals such as race, gender, family, sexual orientation, work experience, physical ability, and religion."
But here's the thing: While they may appreciate diversity "seen and unseen," nowhere on Abercrombie's site does it say you have to spill all this info about yourself at your job interview. However, for Samantha, her hijab was the truth - not only of her religious beliefs, but also in her pride in who she is, which is clear just by looking at her.
While Samantha and Abercrombie & Fitch have been going back and forth in court for over six years now, one thing has become obvious: Abercrombie missed out. Samantha is now a merchandising manager for a different retailer, and if her fashion blog & Instagram are any indication - she'll never go out of style.
We've reached out to Samantha Elauf and Abercrombie & Fitch's legal council for comment on this story.