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Abercrombie employment discrimination case in U.S. Supreme Court

A case before the U.S. Supreme Court could have significance for Maryland job seekers who wear religious garments. An employment discrimination legal battle stemming from a woman's exclusion from hiring at Abercrombie Kids apparel store because of her headscarf has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In the opening oral arguments before the justices, Abercrombie and Fitch's lawyers argued that its decision was legal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is the law that forbids employers to refuse to hire someone based on their religion unless it creates an "undue hardship" for the business.

Lawyers for Abercrombie said that the company's dress code requires an East Coast collegiate look and never allows hats or headscarves. Title VII, however, requires that an employer must show that an undue hardship would arise if they accommodated a religious person's clothing needs. Otherwise, the employer must find a way to let the person fit in as an employee.

The Supreme Court will be specifically applying Title VII to the question of Abercrombie's duty to accommodate the applicant's headscarf after the company assumed it was religious. The woman did not say it was religious, so it remains a question of whether the company automatically chose to discriminate against her based solely on her headscarf without asking about her religious needs.

A person in a similar situation who believes that his or her religious clothing is the source of employment discrimination may have cause to consult with an attorney. The legal rights of the person could be explained by an attorney who might also find evidence to proceed with a lawsuit against an employer. Such an action might defend the person's career potential and possibly recover damages like lost wages.

Source: The Atlantic, "Segregating Workplaces by Religion," Dawinder S. Sidhu, March 3, 2015

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