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Employment Blog

U.S. Supreme Court Reviews Notice Requirement

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on October 29, 2014
Filed under Employment

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to review a decision on a case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against national clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. which focuses on the duty of an employee to request an accommodation for religious beliefs. This decision will have a significant impact on employers and employees when dealing with religious discrimination and providing notice of a need for an accommodation.

In this case, Abercrombie & Fitch decided not to hire an applicant who wore religious garb (a Muslim woman who wore a black head scarf (hijab)) because her look did not fit the collegiate style of clothing sold by the company. The applicant for employment wore the hijab to an interview but never requested an accommodation to allow her to wear that piece of clothing while working. The company felt the appearance of the employee did not fit the company look and did not offer employment.

The EEOC sued for failure to accommodate religious beliefs and alleged religious discrimination against the company. The trial court found in favor of the EEOC, but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held there was no discrimination because the applicant did not ask for an accommodation.

The case is now before the United States Supreme Court for consideration. Briefs will not be submitted until early 2015, so it will take some time before we receive a decision from the Court. The decision will ultimately tell us whether an employer must assume the need for an accommodation for religious beliefs or require the employee to make that request before an employer must give consideration to such an accommodation. This and other cases will focus on the topic of religious discrimination which is becoming a popular cause of action against employers. Companies should check their policies to make sure they are giving consideration to an accommodation for religious beliefs when making hiring decisions and continued employment decisions.