Major Retailer Loses in a Civil Rights Lawsuit

Former employee claimed she was fired for wearing a hijab

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) has lost a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of a former employee who said she was fired for wearing a head scarf, also known as a hijab.

In late 2009, Umme-Hani Khan, then 19, started working at a Bay Area Hollister store. She wore a head scarf during her interview and regularly on the job but was allegedly fired four months later after a district manager visited the store.

Khan says she was approached by her manager and that the manager “Expressed concern about my hijab,” Khan said. “That’s when I felt like it was not appropriate, what they were saying.”

She was terminated after refusing to remove the hijab while at work. According to court documents the company offered her the job back eleven days later, as long as she did not wear the hijab. She declined the offer.
The manager and a corporate human resources director said the scarf violated the company dress code. At the crux of the issue is Abercrombie‘s dress code.

Look Policy

Internally referred to as the “Look Policy,” the dress code includes a grooming guidebook for employees outlining everything from what they should wear to how they should style their hair while on the job.

In court, the Abercrombie argued that the hijab, worn by Muslim women as a sign of modesty, would negatively affect sales. The dress code goes to the “very heart of its business model” and that any deviation from it threatens its bottom line. But the judge said in writing “Abercrombie failed to offer any evidence from those four months showing a decline in sales.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the case on behalf of Khan in 2011. A California district judge ruled that the termination violated the portion of the Civil Rights Act that bars religious discrimination.

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