Abercrombie Facing Criticism Over Religious Discrimination

Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) just keeps getting into trouble when it comes to the company's infamous 'look.' A Huffington Post story that ran on Wednesday (Sept. 18) outlines several instances where employees at various stores have been discriminated against on the basis of religious apparel that doesn't fit the Look Policy.

The chain can hardly make the 'isolated incident' argument as a defense; the store locations are as varied as the religions of the employees in question. Anna Zakhlyebayeva worked at a Hollister location in Olympia, Wash., four years ago, where she was told to remove a silver cross pendant on her necklace.

Niti Patel, who worked at three different stores, was ordered to cut a sacred Hindu religious string from her wrist that she was meant to wear until it fell off.

Hanni Khan sued the company after she was fired for not removing her hijab in a San Mateo, Calif., store. Esraa Mohamed was allowed to wear her hijab, but only because she was sent to work in the back room whenever a district manager visited.

It paints an ugly picture for the retailer, which has dealt with a series of public relations nightmares lately over its supremely particular image rules.

"It's one thing to say your brand only hires super-skinny females and oddly buff male teenagers," Brian Sozzi, analyst and chief executive at Belus Capital, told the Huffington Post. "But to show arrogance in disrespecting the religious rights of U.S. citizens is by far the worst thing that has surfaced on the company."

As much trouble as Abercrombie has faced from a brand perspective, it looks like these religious rights issues could prove to be a legal headache. Federal judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers was none too pleased in her decision against the company in Khan's case this month.

"Reasonable jurors could determine that by offering Khan one option—to remove her hijab despite her religious beliefs—Abercrombie acted with malice, reckless indifference or in the face of a perceived risk that its actions violated federal law," she wrote.

For more:

- See this Huffington Post story

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