A former Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) employee has won a major discrimination case against the popular clothing company. TheBlaze first reported about Umme-Hani Khan’s lawsuit back in 2011. As you may recall, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued on the 19-year-old Muslim’s behalf.
Throughout the legal battle, Khan has claimed that she was fired from a Hollister store branch in San Mateo, Calif., after refusing to remove her hijab (Islamic headscarf). She has been battling the company over the incident, taking aim at the so-called “look policy,” which apparently shuns the article of religious clothing.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers agreed with the young woman, ruling that anti-discrimination laws were violated in her firing.
KPIX-TV has more:
Rogers disagreed with A&F’s claim that making exceptions to its policy would harm the company’s brand, also taking aim against the notion that it has every right to enact such restrictions, reports San Jose Mercury News.
During the case, it was determined that A&F initially allowed the young woman to wear the headscarf, but required that it match company colors. Then, after Khan reportedly complied with this regulation, her hijab was banned altogether.
“Abercrombie must provide more than generalized subjective beliefs or assumptions that deviations from the Look Policy negatively affect the sales or the brand. A reasonable jury could not conclude that Abercrombie would be unduly burdened by allowing Khan to continuing wearing her hijab,” the judge wrote.
“My hope is that this case will lead to Abercrombie changing their practices … in regards to religious accommodation. I don’t want this to happen to any other person,” Rogers added.
With A&F now on the hook for discrimination, the situation is an intriguing one. If this ruling sticks, companies, then, will less control over their clothing policies. At the least, they will need to make religious accommodations, as noted by the judge’s written statements on the matter.
“No one should have to choose between keeping their faith and keeping their job,” proclaimed EOC General Counsel David Lopez in a press release following the ruling. “The court sent a clear message that it was illegal to fire Ms. Khan solely for wearing her hijab, and U.S. District Courts are finding that Abercrombie cannot establish an undue hardship defense to the wearing of hijabs based on its ‘Look Policy.’ This is a clear victory for civil rights.”
Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) is no stranger to controversy and conflict. In the past, groups have accused the company of racism, sexism, and not paying employees in a timely fashion. In fact, Khan’s hijab win is the third time, according to the EEOC, that a district court has ruled against the company in cases that involve Muslim employees or applicants who wear hijabs.
The press release continues:
In July 2011, a district court in Tulsa, Okla., ruled that it was religious discrimination for the company not to hire a Muslim applicant for a sales position due to her hijab. That case is pending on appeal in the 10th Circuit. In April, 2013, another judge in the Northern District of California ruled for the EEOC on the issue of undue hardship in an unrelated case. That case is still awaiting the resolution of other legal and factual issues.
A trial for Khan’s case is set for Sep. 30 and it will be limited to a potential injunction surrounding this issue and damages. A&F has been tight-lipped following the ruling, but the company has the right to appeal the decision.
Khan, now 23, graduated last year from UC Davis in Davis, Calif. She said that this is the first time she’s experienced discrimination because of her hijab.
Featured Image Credit: KPIX-TV