Abercrombie Head Scarf Suit: Muslim Employee Fired, Sues Retailer

Image: Abercrombie Head Scarf Suit: Muslim Employee Fired, Sues Retailer

Tuesday, 10 Sep 2013 03:53 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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Abercrombie & Fitch broke anti-discrimination laws when the retailer fired a Muslim worker for covering her head with a scarf as part of her religious practices, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A San Francisco federal judge said the company wrongly fired Hani Khan from its San Mateo, Calif., store in 2010. Abercrombie had said Khan’s head scarf didn’t follow marketing policies the company had regarding the look of its employees.

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“Abercrombie only offers unsubstantiated opinion testimony of its own employees to support its claim of undue hardship,” said Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

The company faces a liability trial this month, and Rogers said the jury could award punitive damages if jurors choose to do so.

“Abercrombie & Fitch does not discriminate based on religion and we grant religious accommodations when reasonable. It is our policy not to comment on pending litigation,” Abercrombie spokesman Bruce MacKenzie said.

The Phoenix Business Journal reported Rogers’ ruling on religious attire could affect many employers' dress codes.

“Employers may be liable for religious discrimination if they fail to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs unless they can prove that doing so creates an undue hardship on their business,” Marian Zapata-Rossa, a labor and employment attorney, said.

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission brought forth the lawsuit. It’s not the first time Abercrombie has been in court regarding discrimination. In 2004, one suit involving black, Latino and Asian employees was settled for $40 million.

The company has also taken a lot of heat over a 2006 interview with CEO Michael Jeffries, who said the company’s demographic is “cool kids” who are thin and beautiful. Jeffries later apologized for the comment, US Magazine reported, and said it was taken out of context.

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