Twenty-two-year-old Umme-Hani Khan was a stockroom worker at a Hollister clothing store in San Mateo, CA, until she was fired in February 2010 for refusing to remove her hijab, or Muslim headscarf.
Khan had been working at the Abercrombie & Fitch-owned retail outlet for four months, and complying with company “look policies” dictating the color of her hijabs. But when a district manager visiting the store told her to remove the one she was wearing, Khan refused, explaining it was part of her faith. She was then fired.
In 2011, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on her behalf. U.S District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued a ruling in her favor earlier this month, saying that the company violated anti-discrimination laws. Abercrombie & Fitch has agreed to pay her $48,000 (plus unspecified legal fees), along with $28,000 to another woman who sued for religious discrimination.
Abercrombie & Fitch, which has been frequently criticized for their “look policy” featuring only young, fit and attractive white people, has come under fire before for discriminatory hiring policies that exclude everyone from the overweight to minorities and disabled people. In 2004, black, Hispanic and Asian employees and job applicants brought a federal class-action suit against Abercrombie, which was settled for $40 million (though Abercrombie refused to admit any wrongdoing).
The lawsuits didn’t stop there. In 2012 Julie Farrar, a disabled woman from Denver, successfully sued the company for not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A few years earlier, a London tribunal awarded 22-year-old student and ex-Hollister employee Riam Dean £8,000 for “unlawful harassment” after the store manager noticed Dean’s prosthetic arm and relocated her to the stock room. Yes, her disability didn’t comply with the company “look book.”
In case the lack of XL and XXL sizes in Hollister stores wasn’t clear enough, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO and bully Mike Jeffries has said that fat people and nerds are not his desired customers. In a 2006 interview with Salon, Jeffries said,
In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.
Other, more succinct gem’s from this guy include, “I don’t want our core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing our clothing.”
In case you weren’t counting, Mike Jeffries and Abercrombie have hit the quinfecta of discrimination: “non-cool” kids, minorities, religious people, the overweight and the non-white. Clearly, no number of lawsuits will make them change their exclusionary sales and hiring tactics. Therefore I propose a simple solution: Let’s stop shopping there. Next time you have the urge to enter a a dimly lit, over-priced, headache-inducing-perfume-laced, judgmental pre-teen’s fantasy of a clothing store, take a moment to think about what you may be endorsing with your purchasing power—then go shop somewhere else.