The Perils of Dress Codes
Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that Abercrombie & Fitch had indeed illegally discriminated against an otherwise well qualified Muslim woman. The woman, in the practice of her faith, wore a hijab. Wearing a head scarf was outside of the A&F’s “look policy” (the policy has since been changed). The Court ruled by an 8-1 majority that this was a clear case of disparate impact, so it wasn’t a close call.
A&F argued that the applicant had a duty to ask for an accommodation, otherwise how was it to know that the headscarf was being worn as a religious practice? Come on. So if an applicant arrived in a wheelchair, would they ask “How were we to know they were disabled”? I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but the hi-jab is fairly distinctive. Plus, anything called a “look policy” is bound to raise red flags.