On September 2, 2010, it was reported that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) for alleged religious discrimination.

According to reports, the agency decided to file a case after it acquired evidence which showed that a 18-year-old female applicant at a California store was not hired after she was seen wearing a hijab or a Muslim headscarf.

EEOC stated that the unnamed woman was wearing a hijab when she applied at an Abercrombie Kids store in Milpitas back in 2008.

The present case shows that religious discrimination still occurs in the workplace, though it is strictly prohibited by the government. According to statistics, EEOC received about 3,273 discrimination complaints in the Fiscal Year of 2008. The agency was able to recover about $5.7 million in monetary benefits after resolving 2,727 charges.

Ban on Religious Discrimination

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or applicants on the basis of their religion. It is applicable to all employers who are handing at least 15 workers, including local and state governments.

In addition, Title VII also covers labor organizations, the federal government, and employment agencies.

This law also protects individuals from retaliation if they filed a religious discrimination complaint, opposed discriminatory practices, or participated in an investigation being conducted by EEOC.


Facing a religious discrimination complaint can damage your company's reputation, especially if the allegations were proven to be true. In addition, complaints can cause expensive legal battles, EEOC investigation, and workplace dispute or tension.

You may feel irritated or angry once you received a complaint, but you should not be biased when handling or investigating it. Remember that a well-handled complaint may reduce the chances of facing an EEOC inquiry or investigation.

Here are some tips on how to properly handle religious discrimination complaints:

  • Conduct an immediate investigation- After you received a complaint, it is better if you investigate the allegations right away so that the employee will see that you are taking appropriate steps in order to address the issue.
  • Punish the harasser- If the investigation revealed that religious discrimination happened, you should punish the harasser for his actions. Do not let him off the hook, even if he is your friend or relative.
  • Maintain privacy- Make sure that the complaint is handled privately. A dispute may arise if the issue was disclosed to outside parties.
  • Consult an employment law attorney- You should talk to your company lawyer and ask if he can give you a possible solution to the problem.