Abercrombie & Fitch must pay out for hijab ban

Two women didn't meet retailer's 'look policy' for staff, but it has since relented

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 4:27am


Fashion brand Abercrombie & Fitch has agreed to allow workers to wear headscarves as part of a settlement of discrimination lawsuits filed in California.

The retailer, which has strict rules on the appearance of its shop staff, will now allow hijabs, the traditional head scarves worn by many Muslim women.

One judge determined the company fired a Muslim worker from a California store, while another judge said it refused to hire another woman in the state because of their refusal to remove their hijabs during work.

The rulings came after the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed lawsuits on behalf of both women.

In court papers filed last week, Abercrombie agreed to pay the women a combined US$71,000 and unspecified legal fees. It also has established an appeals process for workers who believe they were denied religious accommodations.

"Abercrombie & Fitch does not discriminate based on religion, and we grant reasonable religious accommodations when they are requested," the company said. "With respect to hijabs, in particular, we determined three years ago to institute policy changes that would allow such headwear."

Abercrombie will pay Hani Khan US$48,000 after firing her four months after she began working in the company's San Mateo store in 2009. She had been allowed to wear a hijab that matched the company's colours until a district manager visited the store in February 2010 and saw her in a hijab.

Khan was fired soon after when the company determined hijabs violated the company's "look policy" and detracted from its brand, the lawsuit stated.

"It wasn't about the money," Khan, 23, said. "It was a matter of principle."

Halla Banafa will receive US$23,000 after it was deemed Abercrombie discriminated by refusing to give her a job at its Milpitas store in 2008 when she was 18.

Khan's trial had been scheduled to begin in Oakland next week. A judge previously found that Abercrombie was liable for discrimination and all that was left for jurors to decide was how much it should pay and what it needed to do to rectify the policy.