On Monday, the EEOC supported Hani Khan by filing a federal lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch for violating her civil rights by discriminating against her on the basis of her religion. As a hijab-wearing teenager, Khan applied for a job with a Hollister Co. shop (owned by parent company A& F) in the San Mateo, California, Hillsdale Mall. The manager told her about the store’s “look policy”–which Khan describes as clothes that convey a fun, beachy vibe–and said at work she’d have to wear a head scarf in the company colors of white, navy or gray. As she explains in a recent CNN interview, Khan didn’t really think about A&F’s controversial history. She wanted to work with friends in what she considered a fun job environment. So she wore flip flops, jeans, t-shirts and made sure her head scarf was in the required colors.
Khan worked without incident in the store’s stock room, a job that required she occasionally go out on to the floor to replenish the supply of clothing.
But on Feb. 9 , Khan said a district manager paid a visit to the store, which is owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, and that’s when her troubles began. Though Khan never met or spoke to the manager that day, she said she was aware of him looking at her. (AOL)
Days later via phone an A&F HR representative asked her to remove her hijab during work hours, and suspended her when she responded that she could not due to religious reasons. The suspension was followed by her being fired. This stunned Khan, 20, who grew up in Foster City, California, and says she’s been wearing a hijab for most of her life.
“I’ve worn the hijab since kindergarten,” Khan said. “Nobody has ever had a problem with it. Even after 9/11, teachers and neighbors have always been very supportive.” (AOL)
Though A & F now has a Diversity and Inclusion initiative, it doesn’t seem to have a great track record when it comes to lawsuits, including those that involve discrimination.
Abercrombie & Fitch have lost or settled several other lawsuits over their look policy. In 2009 the company agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a suit with California labor regulators over allegations it forced its employees to buy and wear its clothes while on the job. In 2004, the company agreed to pay $40 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit alleging that it promoted white employees at the expense of blacks, Hispanics and Asians. In 2009 a young British woman also sued the company, winning Â£136 basic compensation and Â£1,077 for loss of earnings after the company forced her to work in the stockroom because of her prosthetic arm. (KQED)
As KQED also notes, Khan is one of three women suing A&F for either not hiring, or firing women wearing headscarves. Samantha Elauf, a teen who was also supported by the EEOC in her suit, was not hired at an Abercrombie & Kids store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, because the company claimed that her simply wearing a head scarf would be in violation of its look policy. The details make it sound like Khan’s case was an example of someone with a hijab slipping through an illegal hiring policy due to location (SF Bay Area) or the local manager, until higher-ups in the company took a closer look.
Would you want to buy from a store that wouldn’t hire you? What difference, if any, might it make to a shopper’s experience if a hijab-wearing teen was re-stocking tees or ringing up your purchases at the cash register?
SM on A&F c. 2005: Abercrummy & Fitch settles