Tulsa Teen's Suit Against Abercrombie & Fitch Goes To Federal Court

Thursday, September 17th 2009, 12:20 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

A Tulsa girl's discrimination complaint against a popular retail chain continues.  She claims Abercrombie and Fitch discriminated against her because she's Muslim.  Now, the retail chain is being sued in federal court.

A Tulsa girl claims her hijab or traditional Muslim head scarf cost her a job at a Tulsa Abercrombie and Fitch.  And, she's not the only one claiming the popular stores discriminate against people who don't fit their look.       

Related Story: 8/5/2008 Teen Accuses Clothing Store of Discrimination

Samantha is a girl who loves fashion.  And, she wanted to share her fashion sense as a sales clerk at Abercrombie and Fitch at Woodland Hills Mall.  But, she says her hijab cost her the job.

"And he was like no she can't work here no matter what, wearing that on her head," said Samantha in a 2008 interview with The News On 6.

The News On 6 agreed not to show her face or use her full name because her mother fears for her safety.  Samantha first spoke with The News On 6 last year, when she filed a complaint against Abercrombie.

Now, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing the retail chain on her behalf.  The suit claims Abercrombie didn't hire Samantha, because headgear is prohibited by its look policy.  The EEOC claims the law requires companies to accommodate religious beliefs unless it causes an undue hardship.

Abercrombie says it's committed to diversity on its website. But, this isn't the first time the popular clothing chain's look policy has prompted claims of discrimination.

The EEOC is also suing an Abercrombie subsidiary, Hollister, on behalf of LaKettra Bennett from St. Louis.  She says the company fired her because she wouldn't wear short skirts.  She's Pentecostal and her religion doesn't allow her to wear skirts above the knee or pants.

And, a British woman, who has a prosthetic arm, won a wrongful dismissal judgment against the company.  She says she was told she could wear a cardigan to cover her arm, but then was banished to the stockroom, because that cardigan violated the look policy.

The British tribunal says it wasn't disability discrimination, but did say Abercrombie should have made an exception to their look policy.  They were forced to pay that employee almost $15,000.

The News On 6 contacted Abercrombie and Fitch's corporate office.  A spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation.  But, Abercrombie has a strong EEOC policy and they accommodate religious beliefs when possible.

She added that the company's confident the litigation will demonstrate that [they] followed the law in every respect.