Jury Awards $20,000 In Abercrombie & Fitch Discrimination Case

Friday, July 15th 2011, 5:32 pm

By: News On 6


TULSA, Oklahoma -- A federal jury has awarded $20,000 in compensatory damages to a Tulsa woman in an employment discrimination case against Abercrombie & Fitch. 

They did not award any punitive damages in the case.

The six-member jury was selected Monday morning.

Federal judge Gregory Frizzell ruled on July 13, 2011, that the company violated the civil rights of the Muslim woman when it decided not to hire her three years ago. 

Now 20, Samantha Elauf was 17 when she applied for a job at the Abercrombie Kids store in Woodland Hills Mall in 2008. 

7/18/2011 Related Story: Attorneys Say Abercrombie & Fitch Should Pay For Discriminating Against Tulsa Teen

Elauf says she began wearing a head scarf as part of her faith when she was 13, and wore one to her interview.

Two managers decided not to hire her because the scarf would violate the company's "Look Policy."  The company says that policy prevents sales models from wearing any kind of head wear, unless they request and receive an exception.  Elauf did not request one.

The Vice President of Human Relations for Abercrombie & Fitch told the court Tuesday morning the company's Look Policy has been clarified but not changed.

HR VP Deon Riley testified the company did grant exceptions to the Look Policy, including a request in 2007 for an employee to wear a head scarf.

Riley told the court store mangers are not trained to handle requests for religious accommodations, but are required to take diversity training. 

Riley said the company has too many managers and too much turnover to train them to be experts in handling touchy issues.  She testified that's why it's company policy for managers to automatically refer all such issues to HR.

Elauf took the stand in the afternoon. She testified that she had worked at other retailers in the mall before applying at Abercrombie & Fitch.

She said she was interviewed on a bench in the mall while wearing her head scarf and never was told about the company's Look Policy.  She testified the experience has now made her wonder if other people judge her by her scarf.

She testified she got a job at Old Navy just days after the interview with Abercrombie.

The judge in the case says there's no evidence of malice so he won't instruct the jury to consider it.  He told attorneys for both sides a reasonable jury could find evidence of reckless disregard on the part of Randall Johnson and Heather Cooke, the former Abercrombie managers who decided not to hire Elauf.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit on her behalf.

9/17/2009 Related Story: Tulsa Teen's Suit Against Abercrombie & Fitch Goes To Federal Court

Cameras are not allowed in the federal courthouse, but News On 6 has been granted permission to send live tweets from the courtroom.


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