Muslim job seeker’s suit can proceed against Abercrombie & Fitch

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a religious discrimination case brought on behalf of a job applicant who wore a hijab, a Muslim head covering, and was rejected by Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc.

Among issues cited in Tuesday’s ruling by a San Jose, Calif., federal judge in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc., dba Abercrombie Kids were the shifting reasons provided by the manager-in-training who interviewed teenager Halla Banafa and rejected her for a position as a stock room clerk in the company’s Milpitas, Calif., store.

The EEOC sued on behalf of Ms. Banafa in 2010, accusing the New Albany, Ohio-based retailer of religious discrimination in its hiring practices in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several such suits have been filed in recent years.

Abercrombie sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds that it claimed it had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification for not hiring Ms. Banfa.

According to the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Davila, Janet Canasa stated in 2008 that Ms. Banafa was not hired became she was not the most qualified; in 2010, the manager said it was because the applicant “was not sufficiently outgoing and engaging.” In 2012, Ms. Canasa said Ms. Banafa was not hired because of her limited availability.

“The EEOC has submitted sufficient evidence to generate a question of material fact as to whether Ms. Canasa’s justification has shifted and what import that change may carry,” the judge ruled.

“The court thus finds that a reasonable jury may doubt Ms. Canasa’s credibility and, by extension, Abercrombie’s proffered justification for its decision to not hire Ms. Banafa,” the judge ruled in setting a pretrial conference for May 17.

Business Insurance, 11 April 2013