Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc, decided on June 1, involves Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits a prospective employer from (among other things) refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship. The question here is whether this prohibition applies only where an applicant has informed the employer of his need for an accommodation. The Tenth Circuit had ruled in favor of Abercrombie, concluding that an employer could not be held liable until an applicant (or employee) provided the employer with actual knowledge of her need for an accommodation.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Tenth Circuit by a vote of 8-1 and remanded the case for further proceedings. A request for accommodation, or the employer’s certainty that the practice at issue exists, the Court explained, may make it easier to infer the requisite motive, but it is not a necessary condition of liability under Title VII.
The Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan joined Justice Scalia’s majority opinion. Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion.
To discuss the case, we have Michael Rosman, who is General Counsel at the Center for Individual Rights.