Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Look Policy”: Jim Crow gets a Corporate Makeover

by Jerry Higgins

“Diversity and inclusion are key to our organization’s success. We are determined to have a diverse culture, throughout our organization, that benefits from the perspectives of each individual.”

Or so claims Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F) on the Careers page of their website.

However, in 2005 A&F paid out $50 million to settle a discrimination suit. The money was shared across over ten thousand Latino, African American, Asian American, female applicants, and other employees. So big was the decision, the law firm handling the case even set up a website to deal with it. Someone may need to dust down the aptly named AF Justice website soon because, yet again, A&F are being taken to court over claims of discrimination against Muslim women.

Muslim women wear a hijab, a religious headscarf, to cover their hair. We have covered the hijab on this blog, as well as the Islamophobia surrounding it as a cultural symbol.

On June 26, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on its website that they and a number of others were beginning court proceedings against A&F for the illegal dismissal of a female worker.

Umme-Hani Khan started working at a Hollister Store (the teenager-aimed A&F brand) in San Mateo, CA, in October 2009. When hired she was asked to wear the hijab in “store colors,” which she agreed to do. Her work space was primarily the stockroom, yet by mid-February she was told she would be taken off the roster until she agreed to remove her hijab. She refused to do so, and was fired on Feb 23, 2010.

Apparently, she violated A&F’s sacred “Look Policy.”

The “Look Policy” is A&F’s dress-code, one meant to represent the company’s “All-American” values. Unfortunately the implementation of their “Look Policy” has left them in trouble more than once. The EEOC has taken A&F to court numerous times for discrimination, suing on behalf of at least two other Muslim women:

  • On September 1, 2010, the EEOC sued A&F, in conjunction with others, regarding their failure to hire a Muslim teenage woman because she wore a hijab to her interview. The manager asked her if she was a Muslim and had to wear the hijab. When she replied “yes,” he marked on her application form, “not Abercrombie look.”
  • On September, 17, 2009, the EEOC filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma alleging discrimination after a seventeen year-old Muslim woman was not hired for wearing a hijab to her job interview. She was told it violated A&F’s “Look Policy,” which forbids any head coverings.
  • A&F doesn’t just discriminate in the US either. A British student won a case of unfair dismissal against them in 2009. The student was granted permission to wear a cardigan on the shop floor to cover her prosthetic arm, yet she was later told to work in the stock room because this violated the “Look Policy.” She was told she could work on the shop floor again once the winter uniforms arrived.

So, at first I thought A&F was merely continuing its practice of discriminating, but it seems I was wrong. A big thank you to Robert Spencer over at Jihad Watch for correcting me on this. You see, according to Spencer, Umme-Hani Khan never really wanted to work at A&F; her being there was simply part of the Islamic master plan to dominate the world, one clothing shop at a time.

Perhaps the All-American ideals and “Look” that A&F embodies are more in line with Jim Crow than the Bill of Rights.