Holding: To prevail in a disparate-treatment claim, an applicant need show only that his need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision, not that the employer had knowledge of his need.
Judgment: Reversed and remanded, 8-1, in an opinion by Justice Scalia on June 1, 2015. Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgement. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Facts: Respondent (Abercrombie) refused to hire Samantha Elauf, a practicing Muslim, because the headscarf that she wore pursuant to her religious obligations conflicted with Abercrombie’s employee dress policy. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit on Elauf’s behalf, alleging a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, inter alia, prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant because of the applicant’s religious practice when the practice could be accommodated without undue hardship.
Procedural Posture: The EEOC prevailed in the District Court, but the Tenth Circuit reversed, awarding Abercrombie summary judgment on the ground that failure-to-accommodate liability attaches only when the applicant provides the employer with actual knowledge of his need for an accommodation.
Sources: Opinion Syllabus; SCOTUSblog Case Page (with further reviews and commentary on the U.S. law implications of this case).