Abercrombie slapped over firing hijab-wearing worker

A judge sharply chides the company attorney who's defending the retailer's 'look policy.'

By Jason Notte Jun 21, 2013 8:13AM
A shopper leaves the Abercrombie & Fitch UK Flagship Store on Savile Row in London, England (© Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)You would think that after already opening its wallet for wrongfully firing a headscarf-wearing employee, Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) would get the message and not make the same mistake again.

You would also be wasting your time. This is a company whose "look policy" rules out employing anyone but its target market of cool kids. This is the company that's also riding its preference for logo-splashed clothing and into a 15% drop in sales.

Abercrombie is seemingly built of vapid Zoolander characters who can't possibly understand why someone in the world beyond their beat-bumping bubble would take offense to its sociopathic business decisions. This is why judges treat its attorneys like preschool students during discrimination cases.

Law360 reports that a federal judge in California nearly laughed Abecrombie attorney Mark Kneuve out of the courtroom. The company lawyer couldn't present documented evidence that Hani Khan -- a Muslim woman fired from an Abecrombie-owned Hollister mall outlet in 2010 for wearing a hijab to work -- cost the company money by wearing the religious garment to work.

"A defendant says we're harmed but provides no real evidence?" Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers aked Kneuve, according to the report. "And you want me to grant summary judgment" in your favor?

The scolding was just the latest wrinkle in a lawsuit filed on Khan's behalf by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011. According to the EEOC's suit, Khan was wearing the religious garment when she interviewed for the job in October 2009 and during the first four months she worked at the San Mateo, Calif., store.

But in February 2010, a visiting district manager saw her wearing it and spoke with one of the store's human resources employees. They both decided the headscarf violated Abecrombie's "look policy" and showed Khan the door.

The company says it makes religious accommodations, including for a hijab, when they're considered "reasonable." It still has no idea what that means, as evidenced by a similar case in 2011 in which a woman fired for wearing a hijab that Abercrombie said violated its "look policy" won $20,000 from it.

Coincidentally, Kneuve represented Abercrombie in that case as well. Maybe his selective amnesia will clear up in time for him to figure out why this latest case feels so familiar -- and why he should really bring documentation when alleging that an article of someone's faith is a drain on his employer's finances.

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Jun 21, 2013 12:48PM
They didn't notice it during the interview? C'mon this company and its brand are a joke.....
Jun 21, 2013 12:51PM
I applaud this article.  If this woman was wearing this garment when they interviewed her, and they are opposed to people wearing this sort of clothing, then why in the world did they hire her in the first place????  They have no right to hire her and then complain about the way she dresses.  This store is racist and discriminatory and I hope they lose a lot of business over this. 
Jun 21, 2013 12:39PM
Frankly I am embarassed I ever worked at this awful store.
Jun 21, 2013 12:58PM
She applied and got the position while wearing it. They had their chance to say no to having someone wear it in their store then, they chose to hire her and now I hope she bankrupts that horrible store.
Jun 21, 2013 11:11AM
Personally, I would believe that working in a clothing store, one should be dressed in appreciable fashion to the fashion being sold.  That is not unreasonable.  Dressing like you are from the 1st century is hardly a statement in favor of the merchandizer for whom you are working, no more than a fur wearing salesman in a vegan store.
Jun 21, 2013 11:12AM
The hijab is not a religious symbol.  It is an antiquated dress of a foreign culture. 

Does anyone really give a damn about A&F? They're a fad way past their expiration date! A&F now equates to knuckle-dragging brainless tweens!

Jun 21, 2013 1:36PM
What's the problem?  A&F has the right to hire who they wish, they have a right to protect their brand, and they have the right to control their image, regardless of what the crazy liberals think.  Bottom line, if you don't approve of A&F's policies, shop somewhere else.  Period!  That's it.  Anything beyond that is all about control and certainly is not a part of true capitalism.  The marketplace will ultimately decide with their wallets.
Jun 21, 2013 1:42PM
If they had a problem with it they should never have hired her.  I don't like the scarfs myself . I think they are stupid looking and ugly, but if someone wants to wear that stuff let it be
Jun 21, 2013 2:34PM
"Abercrombie slapped over firing hijab-wearing worker"

...and right in the middle of releasing their summer burqa collection too.
Jun 21, 2013 1:59PM
I don't see anything wrong with it, but, if your work place has a dress code, then you have to abide by it. I don't know if she wore it during the interview, if she did, then they should have told her she would not be able to wear it while working.
Jun 21, 2013 2:21PM

If she was wearing the hijab when she went for the interview then I think she has a legitimate point. However if she accepted the job knowing she would have to adhere to their stated dress code policy which prohibits wearing them or other head gear then that is different. I don't know of many companies without a dress code policy and this is part of accepting a position with the company. 


 I am a liberal and I feel this company can market their clothing to whomever they wish, even if it is only  to thin "cool" people. If you don't like their advertising then don't shop there. They have their niche as do many clothing stores. I don't see anything wrong with it.       

Jun 21, 2013 12:39PM

Many people in the Wiccan religion believe nakedness is a tribute to their spirit.  Should they be allowed to go to work naked then? 


If you need to dress or look a certain way for your religion, perhaps stay-at-home work would be the best option instead of forcing your employer to understand.

Jun 21, 2013 1:47PM

Hey, if you're fat, not cool, not attractive you can't shop there either.  

So, stop being a hypocrite !

Jun 21, 2013 2:05PM

I am all for AF targeting a certain market, if they want to attract the "cool kids" than do so, if you individually don't agree with that then do not support the store, if enough people don't support it then it will not exsist.  The opposite also holds true and the doors remain open due to the support from the "cool kids".  I choose not to make it a regular habit to shop at WalMart due to the people that shop there, can I sue WalMart for attracting a less desireable crowd then I would like to see like some are saying AF is doing by attracting the "cool kids"....don't shop there, and don't worry about it if I do (I don't as I am a 43 y/o father wo himself does not fit in any other their clothing, but I have other options).


However, the employee hired then fired for wearing something she had on from the start and making it clearly obvious this was her religious preference does deserve to get them involved in yet another court case.  Maybe her choice of dress should've been addressed at the interview like saying we require that our employees dress a certain way, would we have to make any special accommodations for you in order to do that or do you understand what we expect?  If she understood, took the job, then violated something previously addressed and discussed then good by, if it was never presented as an issue then AF deserves what they get.

Jun 21, 2013 4:27PM
Jun 21, 2013 4:24PM
If I encounter a salesperson wearing a hajib, then I will find another store for my shopping. Why  shouldn't a company have a dress code? Would it be allowed for a person dressed as a Pope to wear the papal outfit? Of course he wouldn't be allowed to do wear that outfit, Only muslims can have their own dress code in someont else's company. btw, I don't like Abercrombie, never have, but wearing a hajib on the job is totally stupid, both economically , and otherwise. Muslims will never embrace our culture, so why should we embrace their culture?  . 
Jun 22, 2013 4:06AM
soon bank robbers with hoodies will say the hoodies are religious and sue banks
Jun 21, 2013 1:18PM
It's amazing that so many people commenting on the hijab don't even know what it is. Before you comment negatively on it perhaps you should do some research first? Just a thought.
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