A lawsuit filed on behalf of a Tulsa Muslim woman against Abercrombie & Fitch is effectively over after the store dropped its appeal.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the suit in 2009 against Abercrombie & Fitch after the store’s Woodland Hills outlet refused to hire then teenager Samantha Elauf because she wears a religiously-mandated hijab, or head covering.
The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled June 1 in Elauf’s favor, and sent it back to the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver for further resolution.
According to the EEOC website, the appeals court dismissed the case Monday, representing the “final resolution” of the matter; however, court records indicated Tuesday that the motion to dismiss was still pending.
The EEOC reported that Abercrombie & Fitch has paid $25,670 in damages to Elauf and $18,983 in court costs.
Elauf, who now works at Urban Outfitters in Brookside, could not be reached Tuesday afternoon. She has previously declined to discuss the case.
Veronica Laizure, a civil rights attorney with the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there are “two big take-aways from this case.”
The first is that people who feel they are denied a job for discriminatory reasons should not hesitate to report it to the EEOC or a civil rights organization, she said.
“Samantha Elauf’s persistence was a big part of this success,” she said.
And the second is that this case ensures that people of all faiths will be able to apply for jobs and know that they are going to be fairly treated in the application process,” she said.
The case goes back to 2008, when Elauf applied for a job while wearing a black hijab.
The subject of religion did not come up in the interview. However, a district manager instructed a lower manager not to hire her because of the head scarf, which he said violated the store’s “look policy,” a dress code for its employees.
Elauf went to CAIR-Oklahoma, which helped her file the complaint with the EEOC.
The EEOC sued Abercrombie & Fitch based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of their employees if they can do so without suffering undue hardship.
Elauf won in federal court in Tulsa but lost in an appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision was overturned by the Supreme Court.
An Abercrombie & Fitch spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have resolved this matter … and to be moving forward.
“A&F remains focused on ensuring the company has an open-minded and tolerant workplace environment for all current and future store associates. We have made significant enhancements to our store associate policies, including the replacement of the ‘look policy’ with a new dress code that allows associates to be more individualistic; changed our hiring practices to not consider attractiveness; and changed store associates’ titles from ‘model’ to ‘brand representative’ to align with their new customer focus.
“A&F has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and consistent with the law, has granted numerous religious accommodations when requested, including hijabs,” the spokesperson said.
Bill Sherman 918-581-8398