Over the years, the popular teen clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch has struggled and caused much controversy over their discrimination in processes of hiring and firing. CEO Michael Jeffries has stated several times that he desires “beautiful and skinny shoppers” to wear his clothes and that this retailer targets the popular kids, not the “fat and unpopular” ones. This statement served as his explanation as to why he refuses to allow XL and XXL sizes to be sold in his stores. If you think these statements made by Jeffries are bad enough, Abercrombie and Fitch not only discriminates against overweight shoppers, but they discriminate against Muslims as well.
Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries.
In 2008, Samantha Elauf nailed her interview with Abercrombie and Fitch in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a part time sales job as a “model” (a worker who stands around the store wearing the retailers clothing, while folding clothes and assisting customers) when she was 17 years old. During her interview with Heather Cooke, Elauf was wearing a black hijab, since she is a practicing Muslim and had worn a Hijab since she was 13 years old. After the interview ended, Cooke then discussed with the district manager about Elauf, and her concerns with the hijab, stating that she believed it was worn for religious reasons. This fact caused the district manager to refuse to hire Elauf because employees were not allowed to wear “hats” while at work. It was Cooke’s responsibility to ask Elauf about the hijab and if it was worn for religious reasons during the interview, and not doing so violated the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines.
Samantha Elauf pictured happy after winning her case against Abercrombie and Fitch, saying she won it for “all Muslim women.”
As a result of this discrimination, the EEOC sued Abercrombie and Fitch on Elauf’s behalf. The argument that Abercrombie had decided to defend themselves with was this:
“It is undisputed that Samantha Elauf did not inform Abercrombie that her religious beliefs required her to wear a headscarf when she was at work. It is axiomatic that an employer must have actual notice that an applicant’s mandatory religious practices conflict with an employment requirement,” attorneys for the company argued.
The EEOC views Abercrombie’s defense as invalid considering that if a company acquires “actual knowledge” of an employee’s religious beliefs, then that causes the interviewee to be vulnerable to discrimination from that company. The EEOC also believes that companies should not require potential employees to disclose information on their religion, and that shared information should be voluntary.
The retailer has been in much hot water with their discrimination against the headscarf being worn during work, and has lost several cases relating to this matter. Other cases that occurred in California included Halla Banafa and Umme-Hani Khan, both who were either not hired or fired for wearing their hijab during their interview or on the job. These cases were awarded $71,000 in September of 2013.
Abercrombie and Fitch has not been successful lately due to the fact that the company’s target customers are unrealistic and the clothing being sold is unnecessarily expensive. What do you think about Abercrombie’s defense in the case of Samantha Elauf? Do you think it should be required for companies to know a potential employee’s religious beliefs? It is a relief to me that this company has been struggling lately in sales because they deserve to get a taste of their own medicine.
A photo of the customer Abercrombie and Fitch desires.
Glenza, J. (2014, October 2). The Guardian News. Supreme court to rule on Abercrombie & Fitch ‘religious bias’ over hijab. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/02/supreme-court-abercrombie-fitch-hijab-religious-bias-muslim-headscarf
Murray, R. (2013, May 9). Abercrombie & Fitch targets skinny shoppers, won’t sell larger sizes for plus-sized women . NY Daily News. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/fashion/abercrombie-won-sell-xl-article-1.1339454