Both federal and California state law prohibits employment discrimination based on religious beliefs. While employers may find it relatively straightforward to comply with these laws in most situations, the neutral look policies adopted by many companies led to a certain degree of ambiguity. These policies are designed to ensure that companies present a consistent face to the public, and they usually place restrictions on matters such as the way that employees dress or wear their hair.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took exception to one such policy after a Muslim woman was denied employment at the popular clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. The woman in question applied for a job wearing a hijab, but she was not hired because her headwear would conflict with the company's policy regarding employee appearance. A grievance was subsequently filed by the EEOC on the woman's behalf based on religious discrimination. The EEOC won its case in district court, but the decision was reversed by an appeals court because the woman was not able to prove that the company knew she was wearing the hijab for religious reasons.