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Muslim Women to Sue Abercrombie & Fitch for Alleged Hijab Discrimination

Violating individual 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. Now, two Muslim women are reportedly set to sue the clothing giant in claims that they were discriminated against.

The first woman, Samantha Elauf, says that she was not hired by a Tulsa, Oklahoma store because she was wearing a hijab (Islamic headscarf). The other woman, who has not yet been publicly named, claims that a San Mateo, California branch fired her for refusing to remove her religious headscarf.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, responsible for protecting Americans in the workplace, is bringing a lawsuit against A&F on behalf of Elauf (the commission is also examining the second case). The trial for the case is set to begin on July 18. According to NewsOK:

The case, filed Sept. 16, 2009, in federal court in Tulsa, accuses Abercrombie & Fitch of refusing to hire Samantha Elauf, then 17, because her hijab, or head scarf, violates the company's “Look Policy.” Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from discrimination based upon religion in hiring and in the terms and conditions of their employment.

The second case, involving the woman who claims she was fired for not removing her headscarf, will likely be filed sometime today by the Bay Area Council for American-Islamic Relations and The Legal Aid Society. In this instance, too, the company's "look policy" was at the root cause of the allegations. Mail Online has more:

The company has become well-known for its controversial 'look policy', which provides strict guidelines governing how employees dress.

It stipulates that staff must represent 'a natural classic American style' and instructs them on everything from how to wear their hair (clean and natural) to how long they should wear their nails (a quarter of an inch past the end of the finger).

Both cases pit company and employment policies against individual religious beliefs.

What do you think? Should A&F reserve the right to create these clothing policies, or are they violating individual rights by doing so?

UPDATE: The woman in the second case has now been identified as Hani Khan. SouthSanFrancisco Patch has more:

Hani Khan, 20, said it was the first time in her life she had faced discrimination since she started wearing a headscarf in kindergarten. As a Muslim, she chooses to wear a headscarf, or hijab, that covers her hair, ears and neck as part of her religious practice of modesty when in public.
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