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Muslim Hijab: Dress Code or Discrimination?

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case. The justices are considering whether a clothing store can deny employment to someone for wearing a religious headcovering.

Seven years ago Samantha Elauf sought employment with the clothing store company Abercrombie and Fitch. At the same time, she was a 17-year-old with a love of fashion. She seemed the perfect candidate for the job.

Ms. Elauf went to her job interview wearing a religious head covering called a hijab. She says she was denied employment because of it.

Eric Baxter is a lawyer with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. He is leading the legal action in support of Ms. Elauf.

“She could not remove her headscarf for a job interview without remaining true to herself, and Abercrombie refused to hire her because she was true to her religious beliefs.”

Abercrombie and Fitch says it did not object to Samantha Elauf’s headscarf for religious reasons. It says the headscarf does not meet the company’s dress code for employees.

Zainab Choudry went to the Supreme Court to support Ms. Elauf. She says she understands the difficulties of wearing a headscarf.

“You never know if - you know - if the reason that you aren't hired for a job is because of the hijab versus something else. I have had prospective employers ask me questions about my faith, about my background.”

Yolanda Rondon is a lawyer with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. She says if the court rules in favor of the company it could permit all employers to discriminate against people of any faith.

“They’ll be able to not hire persons they perceive of a religious faith they do not like or does not promote their brand image.”

The Supreme Court will rule on the case in May.

I'm Marsha James.

VOA’s Katherine Gypson reported this story from Washington. Marsha James wrote it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. _______________________________________________________________

Words in this Story

symbol – n., an action, object, event, etc., that expresses or represents a particular idea or quality

dress coden., a set of rules about what clothing may and may not be worn at a school, office, job, etc.

perceivev., to notice or become aware of (something)

promotev., to make (something) more popular, well-know, etc.

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