Muslim woman sues Abercrombie & Fitch, say she was fired over hijab

June 29th, 2011 by Staff

(CBS/AP) SAN FRANCISCO - A former Abercrombie & Fitch Co. employee sued the clothing retailer in federal court Monday, claiming she was fired because she refused to remove her Muslim headscarf while on the job.
Hani Khan, 20, says a manger at the company’s Hollister Co. store in San Mateo, Calif. outside of San Francisco hired her while she was wearing her hijab and told her she was allowed to wear it at work.

Khan says four months later a district manager and human resources manager asked her to remove the hijab while working. When she refused, Khan says she was suspended and then fired.

The lawsuit alleges violations of federal and state civil rights and employment laws.

Khan’s suit is certainly not the first employment discrimination charge against a company known for it’s so-called “look policy,” which critics say usually means white, young and athletic-looking.

While the New Albany, Ohio-based company has said it does not tolerate discrimination and boasts that the diversity in it’s stores “far exceeds the diversity in the United States,” it has been the target of numerous discrimination lawsuits by minority employees.

“Abercrombie prides itself on requiring what it calls a natural classic American style. But there’s nothing American about discriminating against someone because of their religion,” said Araceli Martinez-Olguin, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center.

Khan says that her lawsuit is about more than monetary reimbursement.

“Growing up in this country where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I felt let down,” Khan, now a college student studying political science, said at a news conference. “This case is about principles, the right to be able to express your religion freely and be able to work in this country.”

Abercrombie, however, told the Associate Press that they comply with the law regarding reasonable religious accommodation. Rocky Robbins, the company’s general counsel, said “We are confident that when this matter is tried, a jury will find that we have fully complied with the law.”

According to Khan’s attorney, the 20-year-old is suing to get Abercrombie “look policy” to allow religious headscarves to be worn by employees, as well as for unspecified damages.

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