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.
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