SCOTUS Ruling Further Tangles Discrimination Law for Employers

Date: June 01, 2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kelly Klass 609-713-4243 or 
[email protected]
Follow Kelly on Twitter @KellyAKlass 
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NFIB says the Court’s decision forcing employers to assume the need for religious accommodations creates a no-win situation for small businesses

Washington, D.C., June 1, 2015 – A ruling by the Supreme Court today will force employers to make assumptions about an applicant’s religion which are bound to trigger lawsuits, said the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

“Shifting this burden to employers sets an unclear and confusing standard making business owners extremely vulnerable to inevitable discrimination lawsuits, said NFIB Karen Harned, Director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center. “Whether employers ask an applicant about religious needs or not, there is a good chance they will be sued.”   

NFIB filed an amicus brief supporting Abercrombie in the case of EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch.  The question in this case was whether an employer could be held liable for refusing to hire an applicant based on a religious observation or practice even if the applicant does not say she needs a special accommodation. 

Abercrombie was sued by the EEOC on behalf of an applicant for refusing to hire her because her religious attire was not consistent with the company’s “Look Policy,” which prohibits wearing head coverings.  The company pointed out that the applicant never mentioned her need for a religious exception to the policy.  Nevertheless, the Court ruled today that employers can be sued for failing to assume that an applicant needs a religious accommodation.  

“The court’s decision creates a dangerous slippery slope for employers,” Harned continued.  “Employers who ask about an applicant’s religion and then don’t extend a job offer for completely unrelated reasons can still be accused of discrimination and dragged into court.  Now, that same employer can be sued on the basis of discrimination if they don’t ask whether accommodations will be needed.

“This creates a real legal minefield for small businesses and we couldn’t not disagree more with the Court’s decision today.”

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