Press Release

Supreme Court Hears Religious Discrimination Case Employers shouldn’t be able to feign ignorance to justify religious discrimination

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Washington, D.C. – Moments ago, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in an important religious freedom case.

Samantha Elauf is a Muslim teen who was rejected for employment by Abercrombie & Fitch simply because she wore a religious headscarf to her job interview. Today her lawyers argued at the Supreme Court that no employer is free to engage in religious discrimination.

Samantha Elauf gave the following statement after oral argument at the Supreme Court:

I am grateful to the EEOC for taking this religious discrimination case to the courts. I am not only standing up for myself, but for all people who wish to adhere to their faith while at work. Observance of my faith should not prevent me from getting a job.

The following statement can be attributed to Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel of Becket, which filed an amicus brief in the case EEOC v. Abercrombie:

Religion is part of the human experience and carries into all aspects of life for persons of faith. Employees shouldn’t have to wear a sign that says “I’m religious” before they are protected by our civil rights laws that prohibit religious discrimination.

The case deals with the employment application of Samantha Elauf, a Muslim girl who was 17 years old when she applied for a job at the Abercrombie & Fitch store in her local mall. The interviewing store manager wanted to hire Samantha, but when the district manager was told that Samantha wore a religious headscarf, he made the store manager reject her as “unqualified.”

Although Abercrombie has a “no-hat” policy for employees, the policy has an exception for religious headwear, and Abercrombie has allowed other employees to wear headscarfs, yarmulkes, and other religious garb. But instead of acknowledging that its manager violated Ms. Elauf’s rights, Abercrombie is doubling-down on its religious discrimination,claiming that Samantha was not protected by the civil rights laws because she never explicitly stated that she was wearing the headscarf for religious reasons, even though the district manager knew that was why.

The EEOC filed a lawsuit on Samantha’s behalf and prevailed in the district court in July 2011, before losing on appeal in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2013. On  December 11, 2014, Becket filed an amicus brief supporting Ms. Elauf and the EEOC. Today the case was heard by the Supreme Court, which will issue its decision no later than June 30.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202.349.7224.


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”