NELA filed an amicus brief in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. in support of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s petition for rehearing en banc before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in which the panel reversed a grant of summary judgment to the EEOC in this religious accommodation case, and granted summary judgment in favor of Abercrombie & Fitch. In a 93-page opinion, containing a strong dissent, the majority dismissed the plaintiff’s religious accommodation claim because she never informed Abercrombie that she wore her hijab for religious reasons and needed an accommodation for that practice due to a conflict between the practice and Abercrombie’s clothing policy. The assistant manager who interviewed the plaintiff, however, assumed she was a Muslim and wore a hijab for that reason. The plaintiff was never made aware of Abercrombie’s clothing policy, and thus was unaware of any conflict between that policy and wearing a hijab. The EEOC’s petition focuses on the Tenth Circuit’s creation of a rigid prima facie case requirement in this case, which is contrary to Tenth Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Its brief also addressed the court’s requirement that the individual must be the source of information that there is a religious conflict. At the EEOC’s request, NELA provided amicus assistance on the import of the Tenth Circuit’s decision regarding reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
NELA Executive Board Member Mark Hammons (OK) wrote NELA’s amicus brief with the assistance of NELA Executive Board and Amicus Advisory Council (AAC) member Brian East (TX) and Joan M. Bechtold (CO), the AAC’s Tenth Circuit Representative. NELA members Katherine Butler (TX) and John W. Griffin (TX) also provided support. NELA and AAC member Todd McFarland (MD), Associate General Counsel of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, filed an amicus brief on behalf of religious organizations in support of the EEOC’s petition for rehearing.