In a case involving an employer’s alleged failure to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or an employee’s religious practices, must the applicant or employee explicitly tell the employer of an inflexible conflict between the employee's religious beliefs and the employer's job requirements? Or, is the employer's legal obligation to accommodate triggered by its constructive knowledge of an employee's religious beliefs? The issued had divided the courts of appeals, and the 10th Circuit sided with the first view on Oct. 1 in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc..
The facts were simple: An applicant wore a hijab to a job interview; she allegedly did not get the job because wearing hijab was inconsistent with Abercrombie & Fitch's "Look Policy," which aspired to a preppy, Northeastern look. While the employer knew something about the wearing of the hijab, it was only, according to the court, on the legal hook if the applicant explicitly stated that the religious practice conflicted with the company's rules.
Here is the court: "The reasonable-accommodation principle is implicated only when there is a conflict between an employee's religious practice and the employer's neutral policy; only then does a need to accommodate arise. . . . For there actually to be a conflict, logic dictates that an applicant or employee must consider the religious practice to be an inflexible one — that is, a practice that is required by his or her religious belief system."
Because the applicant did not tell A&F of an inflexible conflict, Abercrombie & Fitch won.