Ashli Sims, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- A Tulsa 20 year old takes on a major clothing chain and wins. She says Abercrombie and Fitch refused to hire her because she wears a head scarf for religious reasons.
A Tulsa jury decided the store will have to pay for discriminating against her. After a three-year fight, Samantha Elauf is walking away with $20,000.
Elauf says she's answered lots of questions about her head scarf since she started wearing it at 13.
But she never thought it would cost her a job.
"Questions like 'do I sleep with my head scarf,' 'do I take a shower with my head scarf,' but as far as I can't work somewhere because of my head scarf, no," said Samantha Elauf.
Abercrombie and Fitch refused to hire her in 2008 because managers say her head scarf violated the company's "look policy." Elauf wears the scarf as part of her Muslim faith.
She sued the retail chain for discrimination and won.
"There is no reason why a Muslim girl should go to a job interview worrying about the fact that they wear a head scarf," Elauf said.
Lawyers for Abercrombie and Fitch say their sales clerks are supposed to be models for their clothing - that's why they have strict rules on appearance.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which represented Elauf, says the clothing store has made exceptions before, allowing a Jewish employee to wear a yarmulke, and they didn't prove that allowing the head scarf would damage the company's bottom line.
A federal judge ruled in Elauf's favor, and a jury awarded her $20,000.
"She's a remarkable girl," said Barbara Seely with the EEOC. "She really is. Very courageous. She's been doing this for three years with us.
"We've kind of watched her grow. And she deserves every dime of compensatory damages that she will be getting."
Elauf says she wanted to sue, not just for herself but other Muslim girls.
"Probably stand up for yourself, and don't let anyone tell you you're not good enough to work somewhere," said Samantha Elauf, who on Wednesday won an employment discrimination case against Abercrombie and Fitch.
Abercrombie and Fitch's attorneys had no comment on the verdict.
Samantha Elauf says she's going to put the money in her savings account and eventually use it to open her own boutique.