Abercrombie and Fitch's (NYSE:ANF) infamously strict "look policy" has finally bent to accommodate religious garb, though it took two religious discrimination lawsuits to do it.
The retailer changed its policy to specifically address hijabs after Halla Banafa accused them in 2010 of denying her a job due to her headscarf and Hani Khan followed suit in 2011 after being fired for refusing to take hers off.
Both lawsuits were filed on behalf of the women by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with Abercrombie now agreeing to pay the two a combined $71,000 in addition to attorney fees.
"I didn't feel like I should have to give up the price of having a job, and I'm gratified the court saw it that way," Khan said in a news conference following the announcement of the settlement. "This is a landmark decision and a victory for people of all faiths."
Those cases have resulted in several allowances on the part of Abercrombie. The company will now make sure job applicants are aware of the policy and the fact that accommodations can be made by request, while manager training will cover those accommodations as well as quarterly reviews of those requests.
There will also be an appeals process by which employees can take conflicts arising from religious clothing as high as the company's U.S. director of human resources, and will continue to be employed during that process. Over the next three years, Abercrombie will have to file biannual reports to the EEOC on how these new policies are being enacted.
Abercrombie still maintains that it does not discriminate, and that accommodations have always been part of the official policy.
"As part of our commitment to fair hiring practices and fostering a diverse workplace, we continually evaluate our existing policies," the company said in a statement. "With respect to hijabs, in particular, we determined three years ago to institute policy changes that would allow such headwear…We are happy to have settled these cases and to have put these very old matters behind us."
- See this Huffington Post story
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