EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., 575 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2028 (2015)

Samantha Elauf, a practicing Muslim, wore a headscarf when she interviewed for a job with Abercrombie & Fitch. Although the headscarf was not discussed during the interview, the store allegedly decided not to offer Elauf a position after speculating that Elauf had probably worn the headscarf for religious reasons and concluding that the headscarf would violate the store’s “Look Policy,” which prohibits the wearing of “caps” as too informal for Abercrombie’s desired image. The EEOC, which sued Abercrombie on Elauf’s behalf, obtained summary judgment from the district court based on its claim that the store had violated Title VII by refusing to hire Elauf. The appellate court reversed the district court on the ground that an employer cannot be liable under Title VII for failing to accommodate a religious practice until the applicant or employee provides the employer with actual knowledge of his or her need for an accommodation. In this opinion, the United States Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and held that in order to prevail in a disparate treatment claim, an applicant must show only that his or her need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision – not that the employer had actual knowledge of the need for an accommodation.