This teen's Abercrombie & Fitch discrimination case reached the Supreme Court — here's why it matters
For a lot of teens, taking a retail job in high school is a rite of passage, but when 17-year-old Samantha Elauf interviewed for a job at the notoriously exclusionary Abercrombie & Fitch back in 2008, she was turned away for not fitting their preppy image — which may or may not have been because she, a practicing Muslim, wore a headscarf. Now, her challenge against the company has reached the Supreme Court, where the justices will debate whether or not A&F discriminated against Elauf based on her religious attire.
Elauf’s A&F interview, for a store location in Tulsa, Oklahoma, had reportedly gone well up until the part where she was denied the job based on the company’s “Look Policy,” which requires all employees to conform to the brand’s clean-cut, “All-American” image. Anyone who’s ever set foot in an Abercrombie & Fitch store or looked at any of their catalogues can attest that there seems to be a uniformity in appearance for their employees — but even within their company policy, there’s actually an allowance for religious head coverings, such as headscarves.
The specific issue the Supreme Court is ruling on is whether it is Elauf’s responsibility to ask for that specific exemption, or A&F’s to ask her about her headscarf and exclude it from any judgments about her appearance. Early arguments suggest that the justices are leaning toward Elauf, since the “Look Policy” exclusion is something that she wouldn’t have known to ask for, and would be something an A&F manager would presumably know about.
This is far from the first time that the company’s hiring practices have come under scrutiny, but we hope this time, the message sticks: Diversity, by its very nature, looks different. Abercrombie & Fitch has had a hard time understanding this, but hopefully the upcoming SCOTUS ruling will make it clear to all employers that it’s not enough just to talk about, rather than enact, real change.