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Supreme Court addresses religious discrimination in recent case

We'd like to begin today's post by asking our readers to consider this question: when was the last time you updated your company policies? If you're like a lot of business owners in California, and across the nation, you might only tweak your policies every few years or so. In some cases, an owner may never redraft their policies.

This can be problematic though because failing to update policies to cultural changes could open a business up to liability, especially if their policies are considered discriminatory in nature. This could lead to lengthy and costly litigation, necessitating the need to talk to a lawyer. To avoid this outcome, business owners may want to start considering annual updates to their business policies, especially now because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Some of our Irvine readers may have already heard about Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie and Fitch Stores, Inc. But for those who haven't, the case alleged that Abercrombie was guilty of employment discrimination when it denied a woman employment because her head scarf, which is part of her religious identity, conflicted with the store's Look Policy. The case raised two important questions: at what point is an employer guilty of disparate treatment and did Abercrombie fail to adhere to the protections provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act?

According to the Supreme Court, "an applicant need only show that his need for an accommodation [for a religious belief] was a motivating factor in [an] employer's decision [to forego employment]." The high court believes that Abercrombie did this, meaning it violated the provisions of the law.

This case is important to our readers because it not only stresses the importance of staying up to date on the law and making sure that company policies are in accordance with it, the case illustrates a big cultural change that companies here in the U.S. should address. Because if policies like Abercrombie's continue to exist, more court cases like this could be down the road, which might not bode well for some here in California.

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