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Abercrombie Defends Its 'Look Policy'

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Yesterday, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission vs. Abercrombie & Fitch. The case centers around a young Muslim woman, Samantha Elauf, who was denied a job at Abercrombie in 2008 because she wore a headscarf, which goes against Abercrombie's infamous "Look Policy." According to a post on ScotusBlog, the retailer is arguing that since Elauf didn't tell the interviewer that she wore the headscarf for religious reasons, Abercrombie can't be held liable for violating a section of the Civil Rights Act. On the other hand, the E.E.O.C. argues that Elauf shouldn't be responsible for telling a potential employer that she wore the headscarf for religious reasons; it's the employer's responsibility to know the company's policy and clarify any questions with the applicant. But Abercrombie maintains that a job interviewer isn't supposed to ask applicants about their religious affiliations at all.

Buzzfeed News reported on arguments from inside the courtroom yesterday, showing how the Supreme Court was reacting to the case. "You're essentially saying that the problem with the rule is that it requires Abercrombie to engage in what might be thought of as an awkward conversation, to ask some questions," Justice Kagan said. "But the alternative to that rule is a rule where Abercrombie just gets to say, ‘We're going to stereotype people and prevent them from getting jobs. We'll never have the awkward conversation because we're just going to cut these people out and make sure that they never become Abercrombie employees.'"

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by the end of June. Abercrombie's current "Look Policy" explicitly states that the company will make exceptions to the policy for religious and/or disability-related reasons.