Hani Khan, Bay Area Muslim Woman, Sues Abercrombie & Fitch over ‘Hijab Firing’
A former stockroom employee at a Hollister store in California is suing parent company Abercrombie & Fitch, alleging the clothing retailer illegally fire her for refusing to remove her Muslim headscarf.
According to the Associated Press, Hani Khan, who was 20 years old at the time, worked at the Hollister Co. store in the Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo, California, a suburb of San Francisco. Khan says she was hired while wearing a hijab; her manager told her it was acceptable attire providing it was in company colors.
Then, four months later, a district manager and human resources manager requested that she remove the headscarf while working. When she refused, she was suspended and then terminated.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that the young woman was fired illegally; she has now filed suit in the US District Court in San Francisco in conjunction with an EEOC lawsuit.
“Growing up in this country, where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I felt let down,” she explained at a news conference. “This case is about principles, the right to be able to express your religion freely and be able to work in this country.”
Abercrombie & Fitch is no stranger to discrimination lawsuits. The company, which has a “look policy” that goes for a “natural classic American style” that critics say means mostly white, young and athletic-looking people, settled a class action lawsuit brought by minority job applicants for $40 million in 2004, without admitting any wrongdoing. A&F implemented diversity policies as a result of that suit, but in 2009 a 17-year-old Muslim girl named Samantha Elauf sued the company in Oklahoma for allegedly denying her employment because she wore a hijab. The EEOC also sued A&F for denying a stockroom position to another hijab-wearing Muslim woman in Milpitas, California in 2008.
The company rejects claims that it discriminates, claiming its workforce “far exceeds the diversity in the population of the United States.” “We comply with the law regarding reasonable religious accommodation, and we will continue to do so,” Rocky Robbins, general counsel for A&F, told the AP. Speaking of the Khan lawsuit, he said “we are confident that when this matter is tried, a jury will find that we have fully complied with the law.”
Khan’s lawyer says their goal is to get A&F to change its “look policy” so that religious headscarves are permitted in the workplace. “There is nothing American about discriminating against someone because of their religion,” attorney Araceli Martinez-Olguin told the AP. “Such a look policy cannot be squared with our shared values. No worker should have to choose between their religion and their job.”
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