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April 15, 2013

It Doesn’t “Look” Good for Abercrombie & Fitch

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

If you are like me, you may have noticed that certain retail establishments seem to hire employees who  have the “look”.  The look may vary between fashion stores, but it seems there is similarity in their dress, hairstyle, makeup, and just overall appearance.  As an HR professional, I have often wondered if having the look was a requirement in order to be hired.  And if so, couldn’t that be discriminatory?

It seems Abercrombie and Fitch is finding out.  They are being sued by the EEOC after refusing to hire a teenager for a part-time job because she wore a hijab, the Islamic head scarf.  Abercrombie asked for a motion for summary judgment, which was denied last week meaning the case will go to trial.  The fact that the applicant wore a hijab did not fit Abercrombie’s “preppy look”, a look they try to maintain in their retail stores.

Other factors contributing to this case aren”t adding up to a good situation for Abercrombie.  In the interview process, this applicant scored high enough, although minimally, to be eligible for hire.  However, three male applicants – who scored lower than the applicant with the hijab – were hired!

There are many more details to this case and it will be interesting to see what the jury thinks.  Discriminating based on looks is not a good idea, whether you have a retail business, office setting, or operate any kind of business.  By being consistent and thorough in the job interview process and not including subjective items you will most likely stay on the good side of the EEOC.  Which is a good place to be.



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