Washington (AFP) - The US Supreme Court said Thursday it will hear the case of a Muslim woman who was denied employment at trendy clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch because she wore a headscarf.
The top US court received a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Abercrombie & Fitch, which is especially popular among teenagers and known for sales associates often dressed in racy attire.
Samantha Elauf, then 17, was refused a job at the retailer in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2008 because she wore a headscarf, violating the company's "look policy," which outlines how store staff should be groomed and dressed.
A federal judge initially found Abercrombie & Fitch liable for discrimination, a decision which was later appealed.
The 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act only protects employees who provide "explicit notice of the need for a religious accommodation."
Under the act, no one can be refused employment based on their religion, unless the employer cannot accomodate the person's religious beliefs without adversely affecting business.
The case has received support from religious rights groups and US President Barack Obama's administration, which appealed the Colorado court's decision.
Elauf applied for a job at Abercrombie Kids, the retailer's children's line, and court documents said she did not ask about how the "look policy" could be adjusted to accommodate her religious dress at the time of the interview.
According to court documents, Elauf was cautioned not to wear a headscarf to the job interview and was encouraged to dress in line with the company's aesthetic.
"Before her interview, Ms. Elauf knew the position required her to model the Abercrombie style, knew the style of clothing that Abercrombie sold, and also knew that Abercrombie did not sell headscarves," Abercrombie said in its court brief.
The EEOC said its cases involving complaints of religious discrimination have more than doubled in the past 15 years, and said while most disputes can be solved in the workplace, some, like Elauf's, spark a wider discussion.
Abercrombie & Fitch stores typically feature sculpted and slender mannequins wooing clients at the store entrance, often modelling low-slung jeans, plunging necklines, crop tops or short skirts.
The Supreme Court's nine judges are likely to hear the case in January as the docket is full until December. A decision is expected in June.