Should an American business be allowed to deny a job to a Muslim teenager who wears a hijab head covering for religious reasons?
Seven Orthodox Jewish organizations are among an Islamic civil rights organization and a public interest law firm who say no, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The groups – the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, Agudas Harabbanim, Agudath Israel of America, the National Council of Young Israel, Rabbinical Alliance of America, the Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union – filed a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Samantha Elauf, 17, who said she was denied a job at a Tulsa, Okla., branch of the Abercrombie & Fitch clothing firm because of her head scarf.
Employees of the firm said Elauf’s hijab do not meet A&F’s “look policy” – “classic East Coast collegiate style of clothing.”
The company said in court filings that it was unaware that she wore the hijab for religious reasons.
“We are looking at a possible infringement of the freedom of religion,” said Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, one of the Jewish organizations that joined the brief. “That has big repercussions. It has to be resolved.”
“This is a common experience that a lot of other Sabbath observers or people wearing yarmulkes have had in terms of applying for a position and being turned down because it is just a nuisance to employers,” said attorney Nathan Lewin, who filed the brief for the Jewish groups.
The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission sued the retailer on Elauf’s behalf and won a $20,000 verdict for violations of federal civil rights law, the Times reported. The award was thrown out by a U.S. appeals court in Denver, but the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in October.