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Employers have a duty to accommodate employee religious practices

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission statutes, Title VII forbids all employers, including those in Florida, to engage in discriminating behavior during any point of the employment process. This rule was further clarified by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case, Equal Employment Opportunity v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc., and places a further burden of proof responsibility on employers.

The Supreme Court decided that Abercrombie & Fitch’s decision not to hire a young woman was greatly influenced by the woman’s religion. Citing Title VII, the court stated that an employer is in violation if the employer suspects a potential employee needs accommodation for religious purposes and then actively tries to avoid providing it.

While the company did not ask the woman what her religion was, the interviewer made the decision that she must be Muslim because she was wearing a headscarf. Due to a company ‘no caps’ policy, the interviewer declined to hire her and cited the policy to her. However, the Supreme Court stated that this could be seen as religious discrimination and decided the woman has grounds for a lawsuit. The decision is in reference to a lawsuit filed against the company by the EEOC.

When tough questions come up about employer responsibilities during hiring procedures, it may be wise to seek the advice of an attorney before coming to a decision. When employment litigation arises from a failure to comply with the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, the results could be public and damaging for a company’s image and brand.

Source: Florida Today, “High court ruling places new onus on employers,” Edward Kinberg, June 13, 2015.

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