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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
9-17-09

ABERCROMBIE & FITCH SUED BY EEOC FOR RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION AGAINST MUSLIM TEEN APPLICANT

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.– National clothing retail giant Abercrombie & Fitch, doing business as Abercrombie Kids, allegedly discriminated against a 17-year-old Muslim by refusing to hire her because she wore a hijab, or head scarf, in observance of her sincerely held religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in discrimination lawsuit filed today in federal court.

According to the EEOC’s suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, Civil Action No. 09-CV-602-GKF-FHM, Abercrombie Kids interviewed Samantha Elauf for a position at its store located in Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa, Okla. The EEOC alleges that Abercrombie refused to hire Elauf because she was wearing a head covering when she was interviewed and this violated the company’s “Look Policy,” which prohibited the wearing of head coverings. Elauf had applied for a sales position with Abercrombie Kids.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, protects workers from discrimination based upon religion in hiring and in the terms and conditions of their employment. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

“The EEOC is committed to eliminating religious discrimination in the workplace” said Webster Smith, acting director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, which is responsible for the agency’s litigation in Oklahoma. “As religious diversity increases in the workplace, companies need to be more vigilant in respecting and balancing employees’ needs to practice their religion, including engaging in religious expression.”

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Michelle M. Robertson added, “Employers must abide by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and reasonably accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the company. It is unlawful for employers to treat applicants or workers differently based on their religious beliefs or practices in any aspect of employment, including recruitment, hiring and job assignments.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.