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Abercrombie Modifies Controversial Look Policy As Part Of Settlement With Fired Muslim Workers

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In this Nov. 14, 2011 photo, Abercrombie & Fitch clothing is displayed at a store in Phoenix. Abercrombie & Fitch said Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011, its third-quarter net income edged up nearly 2 percent as higher costs for commodities such as cotton offset higher sales of its preppy t-shirts and jeans. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) | AP

Abercrombie & Fitch has agreed to revise its "Look Policy," the strict dress code in place for its store employees, as part of a settlement in two religious discrimination cases.

The teen retailer has updated its policies to specifically acknowledge that hijabs, or headscarves, can be accommodated in the workplace. In addition, Abercrombie will ensure that job applicants are informed not only of the Look Policy but that exceptions can be made if requested. The company will add information regarding headscarf accommodations into manager training sessions and institute quarterly reviews of religious accommodation requests.

Abercrombie will also implement an appeals process, allowing employees to escalate issues pertaining to religious garb all the way up to the company's U.S. director of human resources. They will be allowed to continue work while their appeal is resolved.

For the next three years, Abercrombie will provide biannual reports to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding the implementation of the new policies.

The EEOC had filed the lawsuits on behalf of two Muslim women who accused the retailer of discrimination. In 2011, Hani Khan sued Abercrombie after she was fired from a Hollister store in San Mateo, Calif., for refusing to take off her hijab. A year earlier, Halla Banafa sued after she was denied a job at an Abercrombie store because of her hijab.

Abercrombie's stringent dress code defines what kind of outfits store employees can wear, but company insiders and industry observers have said the policies went too far when it came to workers who wear religious items.

Abercrombie agreed to pay Khan and Banafa a combined $71,000, plus attorney fees, according to court filings. Notices of the settlement will be posted for Abercrombie employees.

"I didn't feel like I should have to give up the price of having a job, and I'm gratified the court saw it that way," said Khan at a news conference Monday announcing the settlement. "This is a landmark decision and a victory for people of all faiths."

In a statement to The Huffington Post, Abercrombie said it does not discriminate based on religion and grants "reasonable religious accommodations" when employees request them.

"As part of our commitment to fair hiring practices and fostering a diverse workplace, we continually evaluate our existing policies," the company said. "With respect to hijabs, in particular, we determined three years ago to institute policy changes that would allow such headwear."

"We are happy to have settled these cases and to have put these very old matters behind us," the company said.

Caroline Fairchild contributed reporting.

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