Facts of the Case
Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. (Abercrombie) is a national chain of clothing stores that requires its employees to comply with a “Look Policy” that reflects the store’s style and forbids black clothing and caps, though the meaning of the term cap is not defined in the policy. If a question arises about the Look Policy during the interview or an applicant requests a deviation, the interviewer is instructed to contact the corporate Human Resources department, which will determine whether or not an accommodation will be granted.
In 2008, Samantha Elauf, a practicing Muslim, applied for a position at an Abercrombie store. She wore a headscarf, or hijab, every day, and did so in her interview. Elauf did not mention her headscarf during her interview and did not indicate that she would need an accommodation from the Look Policy. Her interviewer likewise did not mention the headscarf, though she contacted
her district manager, who told her to lower Elauf’s rating on the appearance section of the application, which lowered her overall score and prevented her from being hired.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Abercrombie on Elauf’s behalf and claimed that the company had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by refusing to hire Elauf because of her headscarf. Abercrombie argued that Elauf had a duty to inform the interviewer that she required an accommodation from the Look Policy and that the headscarf was not the expression of a sincerely held religious belief. The district court granted summary judgment for the EEOC. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed and held that summary judgment should have been granted in favor of Abercrombie because there is no genuine issue of fact that Elauf did not notify her interviewer that she had a conflict with the Look Policy.