EEOC Prevails in Suit against Abercrombie

July 18, 2011 ( - A federal court has agreed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that national clothing retail giant Abercrombie & Fitch, doing business as Abercrombie Kids, committed religious discrimination against a 17-year-old Muslim girl.

According to an EEOC press release, the court granted summary judgment to the EEOC after finding that Abercrombie and Fitch failed to produce sufficient evidence to dispute the EEOC’s claims. The EEOC had charged that Abercrombie Kids failed to hire Samantha Elauf for a sales position because she wore a hijab, or head scarf, in observance of her sincerely held religious beliefs.  

The court found that Abercrombie Kids refused to hire Elauf in June 2008 for a position at its store in Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa, Oklahoma, because she was wearing the hijab when she was interviewed and this violated the company’s “look policy.”  The “look policy” prohibited the wearing of any head coverings.  Abercrombie claimed that allowing Elauf to wear a hijab would cause an undue burden on the conduct of its business.    

The court, noting that Abercrombie and Fitch had allowed numerous exceptions to its “look policy,” including eight or nine head scarf exceptions, found Abercrombie had “completely failed to consider the impact, if any, of those exceptions” and that its evidence was thus too speculative.  

Damages will be determined by a jury at a later date, the announcement said.  

The wearing of a hijab is a sore point for Abercrombie, as it is embroiled in at least three other EEOC suits (see Abercrombie Faces Third Religious Bias Suit).