Samantha Elauf didn’t look like a typical Abercrombie & Fitch sales associate, or “model,” when she applied in 2008 for a job in Tulsa, Okla. That much was clear from the retailer’s “look policy.”
But whether the preppy clothier’s refusal to hire the 17-year-old girl was due to her Muslim religion or simply because she wore a black hijab, or head scarf, during the interview is still being fought out seven years later. On Wednesday, it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide.
The justices must weigh the employment difficulties faced by religious minorities – in particular, Muslim women who cover their heads in public – against the rights of employers to avoid “undue hardship.” Their decision will hinge on a narrower question, however: Must the job applicant request a religious accommodation, or should the employer recognize the need for it?
A Utah woman says she encountered only brief resistance when she recently had her driver’s license photo taken while wearing a colander on her head as a religious statement.
Asia Lemmon, whose legal name appears on her driver’s license as Jessica Steinhauser, said the pasta strainer represents her beliefs in the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster movement, also known as “Pastafarianism,” started in 2005 as a protest against teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in Kansas schools.
When she had the photo taken Sept. 29, Lemmon said she wasn’t sure if officials at the Division of Motor Vehicles office in Hurricane would allow her to wear the headgear, but “it was surprisingly really, really easy.”