Last week in San Mateo, California, Hani Khan, a former Abercrombie & Fitch employee filed a lawsuit against the corporation in US Federal Court, citing that she was fired because she refused to remove her hijab at work. The case alleges that Abercrombie & Fitch violated federal and state civil rights and employment laws.
Apparently, when a store manager originally hired her, she was wearing her hijab and told she could wear it while on shift. However, a few months later, a district manager and human resources manager told her to remove her hijab at work. She was then suspended immediately and fired. Abercrombie & Fitch deny the charges, stating they don’t tolerate discrimination and have a high level of diversity in their stores.
However, this is not the first time that the company has faced accusations of discrimination from former employees who are visible minorities.
At the heart of this case is Abercrombie & Fitch’s ‘look’ policy that is supposed to represent the classic all-American: white, young, middle class, athletic and Christian.
However, what if one doesn’t fit within this restrictive model? Are you expected to emulate this ideal and conform? In the case of Khan, she was asked to conform to the religious ideal of this policy, because clearly Muslim American women are unable to be the classic All-American girl while they are wearing a hijab. Khan refused to comply and stood by her religious convictions.
When I am shopping in a store, I never notice what the staff looks like unless they are all clearly white and middle class—then I start to feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. I have never understood why but this always happens when I am in a room with only white people (even if I am often taken to belong to this category). Perhaps this is due to Vancouver’s diversity. Either way, what I always remember about my retail experience is how the staff treated me. Were they rude and hovered over me like I would steal something? Or did they welcome me to the store and help me with my purchases? As a customer, the most integral part of interactions with store employees has nothing to do with a ‘look’ policy, but with their attitude towards the client.