September 10, 2010
Retail giant Abercrombie & Fitch has found itself a recipient of a second lawsuit filed against it by the E.E.O.C. within the past 12 months for refusing to hire a Muslim job applicant because she wore a hijab (religious head scarf). The most recent case is entitled U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch, Co. et. al. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on September 2nd, Case number 5:10-CV-03911, and assigned to Judge Howard Lloyd. According to the E.E.O.C. press release (2010 WLNR 17415315), in March 2008, an 18-year-old female applied for a job stocking merchandise at the “Abercrombie Kids” store at the Great Mall in Milpitas, Calif. In accordance with her religious beliefs, she wore a colorful headscarf to her interview. According to the EEOC, the Abercrombie & Fitch manager asked if she was Muslim and required to wear a head scarf, then marked “not Abercrombie look” on the young woman’s interview form. The EEOC’s suit alleges that Abercrombie & Fitch refused to accommodate the applicant’s religious beliefs by granting an exception to its “Look Policy,” an internal dress code that includes a prohibition against head coverings.
The first case, EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch d.b.a. Abercrombie Kids (Case No. 4:09cv602 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma) was filed by the St. Louis District Office of the E.E.O.C. in September 2009. Both cases are premised on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination based on religion (42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-2) , and requires employers to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs or practices of employees, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the business.
The EEOC press release notes that, “This is not the first wake-up call for Abercrombie & Fitch. In 2005, the company agreed to a six-year consent decree and paid $40 million to a class of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and women. Why? They were sued by EEOC and private litigants for refusing to recruit, hire, promote, and retain minorities because they did not fit Abercrombie’s ‘All-American look.’
This latest case was filed just days after another Muslim woman from California received national attention for filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Walt Disney Company’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa for not responding to her request to wear a hijab at work.
The EEOC press releases can be found in the EEOCDOCS database. Try
EEOC decisions are in FLB-EEOC.