A judge ruled that Abercrombie & Fitch violated federal law when the company fired a Muslim worker at one of its Hollister stores for refusing to take off her hijab.
Judge Yavonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled in favor of Hani Khan’s request for a summary judgment against Abercrombie, which owns Hollister, last week, according to court papers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Abercrombie on behalf of Khan in 2011, after she claimed the company fired her in 2010 for her decision to wear the religiously-mandated headscarf.
“Reasonable jurors could determine that by offering Khan one option — to remove her hijab despite her religious beliefs — Abercrombie acted with malice, reckless indifference or in the face of a perceived risk that its actions violated federal law,” the judgment reads.
A trial will begin at the end of September to determine what Abercrombie owes Khan as a result of its illegal actions.
An Abercrombie spokesman wrote in an e-mail statement that it's company policy not to comment on pending litigation.
"Abercrombie & Fitch does not discriminate based on religion and we grant religious accommodations when reasonable," the statement reads.
The judge also denied Abercrombie’s claim that allowing Khan to wear her hijab on the job would present “undue hardship” to the company’s brand and sales. Khan had been wearing her hijab for four months at work before a district manager visited the store and decided it was against the company’s controversial “Look Policy,” which some say goes too far in micromanaging an employee’s dress.
“Abercrombie must provide more than generalized subjective beliefs or assumptions that deviations from the Look Policy negatively affect the sales or the brand,” the judgment reads. “The evidence presented does not raise a triable issue that a hardship, much less an undue hardship, would have resulted from allowing Khan to wear her hijab.”
Khan’s complaint is one of many accusing the retailer of discriminating against certain types of employees and customers. Abercrombie found itself in hot water earlier this year after a years-old quote from CEO Mike Jeffries resurfaced, boasting about the company’s “exclusionary” look. In addition, France’s human rights watchdog is investigating Abercrombie over claims the company discriminates in hiring based on appearance.
Do you work at Abercrombie & Fitch and have had an experience with its clothing policies? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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In 2006, Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries said in an interview with Salon that his brand is <a href="http://www.salon.com/2006/01/24/jeffries/" target="_hplink">"absolutely" "exclusionary"</a> and only "want[s] to market to cool, good-looking people."
"Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. <a href="http://www.salon.com/2006/01/24/jeffries/" target="_blank">You don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody, either</a>," Jeffries said in the interview with Salon.
In May 2013, <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/abercrombie-wants-thin-customers-2013-5" target="_hplink">Business Insider</a> resurfaced Jeffries' comments in an interview with Robin Lewis, co-author of the recent book "The New Rules of Retail." Lewis claims that Jeffries doesn't "want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people," as evidenced by the sexy man on this billboard.
The repurposing of Jeffries' outrageous comments basically blew up the Internet. One man went as far as to start a brand readjustment campaign targeted at the retailer by <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/14/abercrombie-and-fitch-homeless-brand-readjustment_n_3272498.html" target="_hplink">giving away Abercrombie clothing to homeless people</a>. The video garnered millions of views in just a matter of days.
After awhile, Jeffries decided to issue this statement and posted it to Facebook.
But most people really didn't buy it.
Some people took their comments a bit too far.
While others, decided to keep their posts simple.
Even Ellen DeGeneres took aim at Jeffries' past remarks!
Eventually, Abercrombie was forced to issue yet another apology. Teen activists went to Abercrombie's headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, to protest Jeffries. After meeting with the activists, Abercrombie issued a statement stating that the brand is committed to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/23/abercrombie-and-fitch-apology_n_3323668.html" target="_hplink">"anti-bullying in addition to our ongoing support of diversity and inclusion." </a>
The end. For now.