Abercrombie and Fitch, renowned for its focus on appearance, has a “Look Policy.” This policy apparently outlines precise guidelines on how its employees must dress. Umme-Hani Kahn is a Muslim who was employed by Abercrombie in one of its Hollister stores. She alleged that she was fired because her headscarf did not conform to the “Look Policy.”
When Ms. Kahn was hired by Abercrombie, she was asked to wear headscarves in the Hollister colors. Ms. Kahn complied. However, four months later she was told that her headscarf violated the dress code and that she could no longer wear it. Ms. Kahn refused to take it off and she was terminated.
The District Court in Northern California found that Ms. Kahn’s headscarf was her only deviation from the “Look Policy.” Thus, her termination violated the religious discrimination prohibition in Title VII. Abercrombie’s defense that any deviation from the dress code “threatens the company’s success” was rejected, as was its claim that the lawsuit was a violation of its First Amendment right to commercial free speech. Damages will be determined in a subsequent trial. Apparently, Abercrombie paid a $40 million settlement in 2004 to a class of minorities and female plaintiffs. As part of that settlement, Abercrombie agreed to expand its diversity in hiring and add diversity to marketing materials.