Abercrombie & Fitch has made some major changes in the past year to shed its "mean girl" rep, including a re-branding that omits words like "idolized" and "privileged," and putting that new identity into action by hiring more women and people of color in its stores and corporate offices. But, a lawsuit currently being brought against the brand for an incident in 2008 shows it may be a while before Abercrombie lives down its exclusionary old rep.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Abercrombie & Fitch on behalf of Samantha Elauf, a Muslim woman who claims she was denied a job at an Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa, OK in 2008, because her hijab violated the retailer’s “look policy,” an in-store regulation which, according to Associated Press, dictates that all employees represent a “classic East Coast collegiate style.” Because Elauf wears the headscarf for religious reasons, the suit claimed that Abercrombie didn’t just discriminate against her looks, but also against her religious beliefs, which would make the store's actions illegal. We reached out to an Abercrombie & Fitch rep for this article, but the brand declined to comment.
Although the original case ended in Elauf’s favor, the decision was later reversed by an appeals court on the grounds that she did not make clear the religious reasons behind wearing her hijab, despite the fact that she wore it throughout her interview. Now, it's up to the Supreme Court, where the case will be heard in 2015, to determine whether or not the whole thing was somehow a misunderstanding.
This isn’t the only time A&F has been charged with discriminatory practices. After settling two prior lawsuits from the EEOC over the same issue, the company has since changed its policy to allow hijabs. Regardless of what the court rules this time, and setting aside the religious implications momentarily, this begs the question of whether one's appearance should impact the hiring process at all, formal "look policy" or not. And, given that it's 2014, that question seems downright silly to even discuss. (Associated Press)