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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