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CAIR ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ After Supreme Court Arguments on Hijab Case

CAIR-logo(WASHINGTON, D.C., 2/25/15) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said it is “cautiously optimistic” following oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court today in a case about religious accommodation in the workplace.

In EEOC v Abercrombie & Fitch, the court is considering whether the clothing retailer's refusal to hire a Muslim woman wearing a religious headscarf (hijab) was discriminatory. CAIR filed an amicus brief in the case.

Jenifer Wicks, litigation director for civil rights at CAIR who attended today's oral arguments, said in a statement:

“I am cautiously optimistic that a majority of the court will agree to reverse the Tenth Circuit's perversion of Title VII standards for religious discrimination cases. The reasonable policy, as articulated by the EEOC today, is that an employer has two choices when the employer has knowledge of a religious practice – (1) make no assumption about religion or (2) educate the applicant about the employer's policy and start a dialogue about whether the applicant could comply or need a religious accommodation.”

CAIR attorney: The Supreme Court should protect Muslim worker from job discrimination (Alliance for Justice blog)
See also: U.S. justices show support for Muslim woman denied job due to head scarf (Reuters)

At issue is whether an employer can be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for refusing to hire an applicant or discharging an employee based on a “religious observance and practice” only if the employer has actual knowledge that a religious accommodation was required and the employer's actual knowledge resulted from direct, explicit notice from the applicant or employee.

If the court rules in favor of Abercrombie, there would be widespread negative implications for American Muslim applicants and employees of other religions who outwardly manifest their faith through religious practice or grooming such as a hijab, turban, yarmulke, or beard. Not only would they have to know what rights are afforded to them under federal law, they would also be required to give potential employers explicit notice of their religious practices even if they were not aware that a potential workplace conflict exists.

Wicks said the explicit notice rule would actually operate counter to the purpose of Title VII by permitting discrimination.

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR Civil Rights Litigation Director Jenifer Wicks, 202-488-8787, jwicks@cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-341-4171, arubin@cair.com

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