Were You Not Hired because of Your Religion?


Posted by: Chris

How do you know whether you didn’t get a job because of your religion? It’s a difficult question, and one that an experienced Oklahoma employment attorney can help you answer.

Those of us who live in and around Tulsa probably remember the lawsuit involving Samantha Elauf, the Muslim teen who applied for a sales associate job at Abercrombie and Fitch a few years ago. Samantha wore a black headscarf to her interview. Her case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the decision in that case sets the legal standard that courts use when deciding whether a job candidate was not hired because of his or her religion.

Samantha wore her headscarf to her job interview due to her religious beliefs. The assistant manager who conducted the interview did not ask Samantha about the purpose of the scarf, and Samantha did not mention it, either.

The assistant manager gave Samantha strong ratings for her job interview performance. After Samantha left, the assistant manager asked the store manager for guidance about the company’s “look” policy, which prohibited black clothing and headwear. The issue was referred up to chain management, and the district manager determined that Samantha could not be hired because of her headscarf.

Samantha filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed a lawsuit alleging that the company refused to hire Samantha because of her religion.

When the case reached the Supreme Court, Abercrombie argued that its “look” policy was neutral because it applied to black headwear worn for any reason. However, the Supreme Court rejected this argument, finding that the store had discriminated against Samantha “because of” her religion.

Under the applicable law, the Court explained, religion had only to be a “motivating factor” in the company’s refusal to hire Samantha. In fact, the company didn’t even have to know that her headscarf was worn for religious reasons.

What does all of this mean for you? First, an allegedly “neutral” company policy cannot be used to deny you a job based on your religion. Second, your potential employer need not even know that you would need a religious accommodation: It can still be held responsible for religious discrimination if your religion is a “motivating factor” behind its refusal to hire you.

No matter where you work, no matter what you do, religious discrimination is wrong and illegal. If you feel that you have been the victim of a failure to hire due to your religion, please call (918) 582-2500 today for a free consultation.