Abercrombie Illegally Fired Muslim Teen For Wearing Head Scarf, Judge Rules
The Muslim teen worker who scored a legal victory in an anti-discrimination suit against Abercrombie & Fitch, which cited its dress code in insisting she not wear a hijab to work, says the retailer's policy is "very unfair."
A federal judge issued the ruling last week that Abercrombie & Fitch discriminated against Hani Khan, 18, when she was fired from its Hollister store in San Mateo, Calif., in 2010 because she refused to remove her head scarf on the job.
Khan says she was approached by her manager after four months on the job."She expressed concern about my hijab," Khan told ABC News. "That's when I felt like it was not appropriate, what they were saying."
After refusing to remove the hijab while at work, she was terminated. The company offered her the job back 11 days later as long as she did not wear the hijab, but she declined the offer, according to court documents.
"They just don't feel like it fits in with their 'Look Policy,' which I feel is very unfair," Khan said.
The "Look Policy" includes a grooming guidebook for employees outlining everything from what they should wear to how they should style their hair while on the job, according to court documents.
In court, the trendy clothing retailer argued that the hijab, worn by Muslim women as a sign of modesty, would negatively affect sales. But the judge said in writing "Abercrombie failed to offer any evidence from those four months showing a decline in sales."
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on Khan's behalf in 2011. A trial on the company's liability and punitive damages is scheduled for Sept. 30.
"Abercrombie & Fitch does not discriminate based on religion and we grant religious accommodations when reasonable," a company representative told ABC News in a statement after the ruling.
It's not the first time the company has made headlines or headed to court over image-related issues. Protesters gathered outside stores earlier this year after an interview Abercrombie's CEO Mike Jeffries gave in 2006 resurfaced on social media.
In the interview, Jeffries said the company's clothing was marketed toward "cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that."
He later said he regretted the comments.
The company settled a class-action lawsuit for $50 million in 2004 after allegations of discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices. It admitted no wrongdoing.
Khan hopes her lawsuit will lead to policy changes at Abercrombie & Fitch.
"I really hope that they look into their policies and practices," she said, "and they're able to reflect some changes."