Religious Accommodation: Abercrombie Shows Where It’s Headed by Chris McCarty

McCarty-5121This piece should educate readers on the growing need to allow for religious accommodations at work, but I need to begin with a related confession: I hate Abercrombie & Fitch. When strolling through West Town Mall, I always shook my head at the Abercrombie store. Nothing made me feel older or lamer. Shirtless kids stood awkwardly at the entrance. Music I neither understood nor liked bumped out of too many speakers. I could feel myself wanting to scream, “Get off my lawn,” but then I would realize I was in a mall surrounded by people who probably liked Abercrombie.

I. The Case

The company went out of its way to maintain a certain look, a fact that was confirmed in the recent United States Supreme Court decision, EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 2028 (U.S. 2015). As Justice Scalia wrote for the majority, “[c]onsistent with the image Abercrombie seeks to project for each store, the company imposes a Look Policy that governs its employees’ dress.” The Look Policy, for instance, prohibited “caps…as too informal for Abercrombie’s desired image.”

The Look Policy never bothered to define the term “cap.” This might not sound surprising until one realizes the amount of detail otherwise provided within the Abercrombie Look Policy. In a 2013 article, the website Buzzfeed published the Look Policy section below on Hair Color and Highlights.

Read the full article on pages 16 and 17 of the September 2015 issue of DICTA, a monthly publication of the Knoxville Bar Association.

Chris McCarty a shareholder in our Knoxville office, practices in the areas of employment law, education law and general civil litigation. Mr. McCarty handles matters before state and federal courts throughout Tennessee, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). He also advises and represents various school boards, including Sevier County, Bristol City and Claiborne County. Mr. McCarty frequently presents on employment and education law topics, and his articles on those topics have been seen in numerous publications, including HR Magazine and the Knoxville Business Journal.

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