In a painful defeat for the Obama administration, a federal appellate court has overturned a judge's ruling that a clothing retailer discriminated against a Muslim woman for denying her a job because she wore a religious headscarf known as a hijab.
The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the nation's workplace discrimination laws. Under Obama the agency has brought a number of similar lawsuits on behalf of Muslims around the country alleging violations of religious and civil rights. In this case the agency accuses a retail giant, Abercrombie & Fitch, of illegally discriminating against a Muslim woman by ruling her out for employment over her religious headscarf.
The woman, Samantha Elauf, applied for a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in a Tulsa, Oklahoma mall in 2008. The company, which focuses on hip casual wear for consumers aged 18 to 22, has a policy against head covers of any kind for its employees. According to the EEOC it amounts to discrimination based on religion and that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers are required to accommodate the sincere religious beliefs or practices of employees, the agency says, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on business.