Abercrombie & Fitch Settles Two Pending EEOC Religious Discrimination Suits

by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Contact

'Look Policy' to Accommodate Muslims Wearing Hijab 

SAN FRANCISCO - Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has agreed to pay $71,000 and to change its policies to settle two separate religious discrimination lawsuits on behalf of Muslim teens wearing hijabs (religious headscarves), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.  This settlement follows last week's ruling finding Abercrombie liable for religious discrimination in one case, and an April 2013 ruling dismissing its undue hardship claims in the other suit.  

In an order issued Sept. 3, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers found Abercrombie liable for religious discrimination when it fired a Muslim teenager from her "impact associate" (stockroom employee) position solely for refusing to remove her hijab.  Abercrombie had claimed that the hijab violated its "Look Policy" and permitting employees to wear it would harm the Abercrombie brand.  Observing that Umme-Hani Khan had been interviewed and hired while wearing the hijab and had worked without incident at Abercrombie's Hollister store at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, Calif., for four months, the court dismissed Abercrombie's argument as "not linked to any credible evidence."  Khan intervened in the EEOC's lawsuit and was represented by the Legal Aid Society/Employment Law Center and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Similarly, in an April 2013 ruling on the EEOC's lawsuit on behalf of Halla Banafa, U.S. Judge Edward J. Davila also dismissed Abercrombie's undue-hardship claims on summary judgment, citing the "dearth of proof" linking store performance or the Abercrombie brand image to "Look Policy" compliance.  The EEOC lawsuit alleged that the 18-year old Muslim applicant was asked about her headscarf and religion during her interview, then denied a job as an "impact associate" in Abercrombie's Great Mall outlet in Milpitas, Calif., for discriminatory reasons. 

In a third lawsuit not part of this settlement, a district court in Tulsa, Okla., ruled on July 2011  that it was religious discrimination for Abercrombie not to hire a Muslim applicant for a sales position due to her hijab. That case is pending on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said, "Three U.S. District Courts have agreed: Abercrombie cannot claim that permitting Muslim employees to wear their hijabs is an undue hardship based on its 'Look Policy.'  As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, this victory is one more step toward achieving the goal of eliminating religious discrimination in the workplace."

The EEOC, Abercrombie and Khan agreed to consolidate the settlement of the two California  lawsuits into one Stipulated Judgment and Decree.  Under the decree, Abercrombie will create an appeals process for denials of religious accommodation requests, inform applicants during interviews that accommodations to the "Look Policy" may be available, and incorporate headscarf scenarios into all manager training.  The company will be required to make regular reviews of religious accommodation decisions to ensure consistency and provide biannual reports to the EEOC and Khan.  Khan and Banafa will also receive $71,000 under the terms of the settlement.

"Our freedom to practice our religious beliefs is a fundamental right in this country," said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo.  "Where reasonable alternatives exist, the law requires employers to be flexible to enable workers to observe their faith and do their job.  Employers can't simply reject accommodation requests without concrete proof that the accommodations would cause harm to the business." 

EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, "We are pleased about the policy changes resulting from these lawsuits and commend these two courageous young women for standing up for their civil rights.  It is not easy to fight against such a large corporation.  Their efforts have resulted in lasting and measurable change."

Khan stated, "The judge's ruling affirms why I challenged my termination when it happened.  It is important for people stand up to discrimination when they experience it, because the law is on our side.  I am hopeful that the policy changes will ensure what happened to me never happens to another A&F employee again."

Banafa said, "I feel really good about fighting back and that my case will make a difference.  I'm excited about the policy changes at Abercrombie and that the judges' decisions will make it easier for other women who wear a headscarf to go to work."

According to company information, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. operates retail stores under the brands Abercrombie & Fitch, for men and women over the age of 18; abercrombie kids targeting preteens between ages seven and 14; and Hollister Co. for teenagers aged 14 through 18, with more than 1,000 stores in North America. 

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

Written by:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Contact
more
less

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.