Posts Tagged ‘religious discrimination’

Supreme Court rules for Abercrombie hijab claimant

I’ve got a new post up at Cato about the Supreme Court’s decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc. The Court’s 8-1 ruling on fairly narrow grounds in favor of the headscarf-wearing claimant isn’t very surprising, for reasons I explain in the piece. The ruling could expose employers to more liability, particularly of the sued-if-you-do, sued-in-you-don’t variety, since it encourages employers to pry into employees’ religious views or adopt stereotyped views about what their religious scruples should be presumed to be. Still, eight Justices were content to resolve the dispute on relatively dry statutory interpretation grounds, with only Justice Clarence Thomas interested in interrogating the law at a more fundamental level. (Why, he wonders, is equal treatment based on non-religious considerations now considered “intentional discrimination” based on religion?)

P.S. More coverage: Daniel Fisher, Daniel Schwartz, Philip Miles. And when might a National Review author favor limiting private employers’ liberty? When it’s a religious discrimination case.

Jury awards $150K to employee who feared scanner as “Mark of the Beast”

“An employee who refused to submit to biometric hand scanning because he feared the scanner would imprint him with the “Mark of the Beast,” was awarded $150,000 in damages by a federal jury …. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Consol Energy on behalf of Butcher for allegedly forcing the long-time mine worker to retire because the companies’ newly installed technology violated his religious beliefs.” [Michael Stone, Patheos; Biometric Update, opinion and EEOC press release via Eugene Volokh, Jon Hyman and more (Sixth Circuit rules for employer in case where employee interprets Social Security number as mark of the Beast, because use of those numbers in hiring is mandatory under federal law)]

EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch: employers as mind-readers

The Supreme Court is considering the case of a woman who sued torrid-youth retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, saying it discriminated against her based on religious belief when it failed to waive its “Look Policy,” in which sales personnel are expected to wear only clothes sold by the store, to accommodate her modesty headscarf. Never mind whether this demand would be a reasonable one in itself; the case has gone up to the U.S. Supreme Court in large part because of a second issue, whether the store was legally obliged to grasp the situation intuitively as based on religion and pre-emptively accommodate Samantha Elauf “even though Elauf never informed them that she would need a religious accommodation.” A district court ruled that it was so obliged, the Tenth Circuit reversed, and now the Supreme Court is hearing the case at the EEOC’s request.

Requiring employers to offer a religious accommodation before they are on notice that one is sought requires them to act on “crude stereotypes or pry into employees’ personal lives,” write Ilya Shapiro and Julio Colomba. Not all employee requests on subjects such as modesty, diet, or weekend attendance are associated with religious affiliation and observance, while conversely many persons with genuine or sincere religious affiliation or belief do not conform to stereotypical expectations about what their religion might require of them in the workplace. Individual employees are thus “in a significantly better position to identify conflicts than employers.” The Cato Institute has filed an amicus brief on Abercrombie’s side arguing that the Court should reject the EEOC’s position as unworkable, unfair, and not required by the statute.

Related: Eugene Volokh has been posting on religious-exemption and religious-accommodation law at Volokh Conspiracy. For those who imagine, reading the Hobby Lobby and state-RFRA coverage, that religious exemptions have mostly been favored by conservatives over liberal opposition, he reminds us that the actual history is nearer the opposite. And he explains why his own view is that an optimal approach would include a mix of legislatively and judicially crafted (consistent with legislative wishes) religious exemptions and accommodations, but not necessarily a constitutional entitlement to accommodation.

October 10 roundup

Labor and employment roundup

“Creeping sharia” in American law?

As I explain in a new Cato post, Eugene Volokh has been blogging this week on the proper role of the courts in recognizing or ignoring religious law, whether Christian, Jewish, or Islamic. Oklahoma passed a measure banning by name the use of Islamic sharia law, but the Tenth Circuit struck that law down as discriminating against a particular religion. Meanwhile, lawmakers in other states have introduced legislation on the subject. Earlier.

January 22 roundup

  • Reminder: federal panel finally mulling reform of ultra-costly pretrial discovery, now’s the time to send comments [Kyl/WSJ, earlier]
  • Michigan woman convicted of false rape claim had sent man to prison for 10 years in earlier case [ABA Journal]
  • Strickland, key figure in disastrous CPSIA law and then chief at NHTSA, lands at BigLaw’s Venable [AutoNews, Detroit News]
  • A religious accommodation too far? Devout student at secular university asks not to work with female classmates [York U., Ontario; CBC via @amyalkon, also related on Nova Scotia aikido class] Inviting shop clerks to set up “no booze/pork” check lines is a sensitivity too far [Andrew Stuttaford, Secular Right]
  • “Top 2013 Jury Awards: Price-Fixing, Nursing Home Liability, Defamation” [Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg] Top legal ethics stories of 2013 [Legal Ethics Forum and followup on R v Farooqi & Ors]
  • Liberate history-talk: “Another Battle Against Silly Tour-Guide Regulations” [Ilya Shapiro] Handing out $1,000 fines in Charleston, S.C. [Brian Doherty]
  • “The line between Salon and Granma is getting awfully blurry” [@dandrezner; more about DoNotLink.com]

Labor and employment roundup

  • Defend yourself in the press against an employee’s litigation publicity, and you’ve “retaliated”? If you say so, Your Honor [Jon Hyman]
  • Hijab-wearing applicant never informed Abercrombie she needed religious accommodation of Look Policy; 10th Circuit reverses EEOC win [Wolters Kluwer, EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch]
  • What, no more drop-ins from other states? “Gov. Jerry Brown signs athlete workers’ comp bill” [L.A. Times, background]
  • ProPublica on supposed decline and fall of employment class actions after Wal-Mart v. Dukes [Ted Frank, my take]
  • How many online readers need to follow OFCCP press releases on federal-contractor law but have so little fluency in English that they require a version in Hmong, Lao, Tagalog, or Urdu? [Department of Labor]
  • What happened to the carpal tunnel epidemic? The condition itself didn’t go away [Freakonomics via Ira Stoll]
  • Gail Heriot on affirmative action at Cato Constitution Day [video]