Abercrombie & Fitch Affiliate Discriminates on Five Fronts

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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.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user sophkirt licensed by Creative Commons 2.0

 

IMG_0732Melissa McGlensey recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.A. in English and Spanish and a minor in creative writing; she is currently interning at Ms.

Comments

  1. I wonder if MS would allow your hometown paper to reprint your blogs along with a link to the website?

  2. Thank you for writing about this! And I totally agree. I’ve been telling people for years how terrible this company is. Now I’ll just point them to your article.

  3. re: “et’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.”

    Done, done and done.

  4. I’m no fan of the hijab, for reasons completely different (actually opposite) of this company’s philosophy, but I also cannot stomach this “Khool-wannabe” culture…As for the CEO, well, I’ll take nerdy over creepy any time dude! Why do people even shop there?

  5. Marlene McGlensey says:

    I am in shock that this type of business attitude is successful. Hopefully not for long! Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention!

  6. Eric Jernigan says:

    Wonderful article Melissa! I’ve never cared for that company since they started (90′s? who gives a…) Overpriced, undernade clothing that have no more design chic than have the name name of the company on the clothes- brilliant, if a company could project the image of an arrogant asshole who is afraid he will forget his name, then tada: mission accomplished! That was before that squishy-faced CEO defended the “catalogues for pedophiles.*” Does anyone remember the catalogues with teens/pre-teens, naked but covered, just enough to be suggestive, not illegal? Monority naked kids, need not be exploited (on film). I don’t know if they were released/printing halted, or part of the AF status quo for all catlogues now. I never paid attention; they lost me at “What’s my name” a long time ago.

    I will say this just like in politics, everyone gets what they deserve: everyone who shops there keeps “Squishy” and his executives living well, it doesn’t matter if you like AF’s practices, you bank roll them and make em real. If you work there, it’s probably because your other job choices are worse. I feel for you but you need an exit strategy- ESCAPE from Abercatraz! If you invest in AF, I hope your loved ones are white and “pretty,” otherwise you are paying to give them the middle finger.

    Your choices matter!

    …go ducks!

    *my term

  7. Agree, speak with your wallet, it is all big business hears EVER!

  8. I will never buy Abercrombie and Fitch. What a bunch of jerks.

  9. Stephen Sharper says:

    You know what it’s about damn time somebody just came out and said what has been obvious to any self-respecting radical for years. If you don’t like a company’s policy than don’t shop there. If all plus sized, hijab wearing, brown skinned, or other wise “non-cool” people stopped shopping at it’s stores I’m pretty sure they’d be in trouble and would most likely be forced to change their policies to win back the allegiance of demographics whose purchases they’ve unknowingly relied on all these years. If not, who cares? I only wish someone had said this sooner. I think non-participation is much more expedient than the whole let’s make a million petitions to try and get them to change strategy

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