Employers have to make tough choices when they are selecting applicants. Weeding out employees should be based upon whether the person is a good fit for the company and can perform the essential functions of the job. Sadly, there are still some Texas employers that make their choices based upon a person’s protected status, which can lead the applicant to file a discrimination claim.
A woman who was a teen when she applied at Abercrombie & Fitch is claiming that the company chose not to hire her because she wore a hijab to her interview. The plaintiff was told by one of her friends who worked for the company that wearing her religious headwear would be acceptable, so long as it wasn’t black. Abercrombie has a very strict “look policy,” which gives specific guidelines for how all of the employees are to look, from their facial hair to their shoes.
Allegedly, the manager who interviewed her deemed that she ranked high enough on their scored style chart to be hired. When he consulted with his supervisor on how to handle her hijab, the manager was told that her headwear was not acceptable according to the policy, because employees are not permitted to wear hats. As a result, the girl was never hired by the company. The supervisor claimed that he had no idea that the scarf was worn for religious purposes.
The EEOC filed a claim against Abercrombie on behalf of the woman, and she was awarded $20,000 in damages in her discrimination claim, but it was later reversed. After the decision, the EEOC petitioned the Supreme Court to listen to the case, which is said to start early in 2015. Two other Muslim women had the same situation occur, but they won their cases, and the look policy was revised so that religious headwear was acceptable. It is illegal for Texas employers to make hiring decisions based upon a person’s protected status. If such activity occurs, the applicant may choose to file a claim against the company and be awarded financial relief based upon evidence of the discrimination.
Source: businessweek.com, “The Supreme Court Will Decide if Abercrombie Is Guilty of Religious Discrimination“, Susan Berfield, Oct. 2, 2014