Abercrombie & Fitch, the American clothes retailer equally known for their trendy styles and racy marketing practices, was dealt a recent legal blow in a discrimination lawsuit filed against the company by a former Muslim teen employee, reports ABC News on Sept. 10.
In 2010, an 18-year-old from San Mateo, Calif., Hani Khan, was fired from a Hollister store – one of Abercrombie’s offshoot brands. According to the suit, Khan was terminated because she refused to remove her hijab – the traditional headscarf covering worn by Muslim females beyond the age of puberty.
After being on the job as an active employee for over four months, Khan said she was approached by one of the store managers who advised Khan that it was not appropriate for her to wear the hijab at work.
“She [the manager] expressed concern about my hijab,” Khan said. “That's when I felt like it was not appropriate, what they were saying.”
In a teen fashion market that is all about the latest looks, a Muslim wearing a hijab in accordance with her religious beliefs did not meet the standards of Abercrombie’s so-called “Look Policy,” or its company’s dress code, which requires associates to dress in a way that is consistent with the brand image and clothing sold by Abercrombie.
After being fired, Khan was offered her job back approximately a week and a half later but under one condition – that she leave her hijab at home. Khan refused, opting rather to pursue a legal course of action, which she ultimately won.
“In court, the trendy clothing retailer argued that the hijab, worn by Muslim women as a sign of modesty, would negatively affect sales. But the judge said in writing ‘Abercrombie failed to offer any evidence from those four months showing a decline in sales,’” says ABC News.
A federal judge last week ruled in Khan’s favor. Now, the company must await a Sept. 30 trial date to determine the amount of liability and punitive damages that will be assessed against them.
Abercrombie is no stranger to allegations of discrimination.
In a 2004 class-actions lawsuit, the company was found guilty of discriminating against a host of minorities – African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and women – by offering floor sales positions to good-looking white men. The company was forced to pay out over $40 million in damages.
In June 2009, 22-year-old Riam Dean, who worked at A&F’s flagship store in London, said that she was told her prosthetic left arm breached the company’s “Look Policy,” and was relegated out of sight from the showroom floor, being assigned to work in the stock room. Courts ruled in favor of Dean, saying she was "wrongfully dismissed and unlawfully harassed."
After the most recent ruling last week, the company released the following statement:
“Abercrombie & Fitch does not discriminate based on religion and we grant religious accommodations when reasonable,” the statement read.
Evidently, to the chic and vainglorious clothing maker, it would appear there is no “reasonable” time to allow religious accommodation.