Monday, March 01, 2010
We all can spot an Abercrombie and Fitch advertisement from a mile away. The formula is a familiar one: Take stunning male models with rippling abs and meticulously messed hair, place in black-and-white photo that screams sensuality, add an equally stunning female model, stir and enjoy. Abercrombie and Fitch have been selling jeans and t-shirts on the backs and behinds of gorgeous young things since the late 1980s. Their brand exploded in the 1990s and early 2000s with worldwide store openings, fragrance sales, and the popularity of their highly sought-after catalog. Yet the massive retailer’s name has become synonymous with something other than sexy ads and overpriced polo shirts: workplace discrimination. In fact, a slew of lawsuits have been filed against A&F. In one, employees claimed they were relegated to the stockroom because they weren’t white, which resulted in a 2004 settlement. In another, a British employee sued A&F when the company forced her to move from the sales floor to the stockroom because she had a prosthetic arm.
Recently, Muslim college student Hani Khan was fired from Hollister, an A&F sister store geared toward a female surfer clientele, for wearing a headscarf (or hijab as it is known in the Muslim religion). Human resources allegedly told Khan that she was not being fired for her performance but for specifically violating the company’s “look policy,” which states employees are not allowed to wear hats or scarves while working. Khan explained that her scarf was worn for religious reasons but was simply told again that she had violated company policy. Even though the nineteen-year-old Khan had been instructed at the time of her hiring that as long as her scarf represented one of the company colors of white, gray or navy, there would be no problem with her wearing one at work, she came under scrutiny when a visiting district manager noticed the scarf and reported her. Not willing to take such treatment lying down, Khan has given dozens of interviews with global media outlets since her firing last Monday and is currently filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She is currently enrolled in college in the Bay Area and is interested in becoming a lawyer.