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Friday, September 13, 2013

Giant Clothing Line Held Liable for Religious Discrimination

Another clothing line has been recently held liable for labor law violations following a series of investigation by the labor police, targeting violators from the garment industry several months ago.

In its press release, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claimed that a federal judge has found the clothing giant Abercrombie & Fitch liable for religious discrimination.

The agency filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the said clothing line in 2011 on behalf of the latter’s former Muslim employee, Umme-Hani Khan.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Khan started working in one of Abercrombie & Fitch’s branches, which was located in Hillside Shopping Center in San Mateo, California in October 2009. She worked there as an impact associate, primarily working in the stock room. Therefore, she was allowed to wear headscarves but in Hollister colors, which she agreed to do so. However, she was later informed that her hijab violated the clothing line’s “Look Policy”, a company-wide dress code. She was advised that she would be taken off her work schedule unless she removed her hijab while at work. In February, 2010, Khan was eventually terminated for allegedly refusing to take off her hijab.

Once again, the Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer herein reminds that under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination based on religion is prohibited. Also, the same act requires employers to accommodate the sincere religious beliefs or practices of employees unless the accommodation imposes undue hardship on the business.

Fortunately for Khan, aside from the EEOC, two non-profit organizations, the Legal Aide Society / Employment Law Center and the Council on American-Islamic Relations also represented Khan. The federal judge eventually ruled in favor of Khan.

It could be remembered that this is the third time that a district court has ruled against Abercrombie & Fitch. Apparently, it was not the first or second time that the clothing giant imposed undue hardship to Muslim employees or applicants wearing hijabs. In July 2011 and April this year, similar cases filed against Abercrombie & Fitch have been heard in Oklahoma and California. All cases are represented by the EEOC.

As for the EEOC, it is undisputed that Khan was terminated for non-compliance with the company’s “Look Policy” since her only violation of the said policy was the headscarf. The agency also argued that no employee should have to choose between keeping their religious faith and keeping their job. It further asserted that Abercrombie cannot establish undue hardship defense to the wearing of such religious headscarf based on its “Look Policy”.

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