Abercrombie and Fitch has been subjected to several lawsuits in the last few years based on the company’s appearance policy. CEO Mike Jeffries was quoted in 2013 remarking that the company’s objective is to target “good looking people” which is why they “hire good looking people.” The company has been accused of discrimination based on weight, physical disabilities, appearance, and religion.
On February 25, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments concerning a previously filed EEOC complaint regarding one of Abercrombie and Fitch’s personal appearance policies. A teenager who had applied for a sales position with the company was not hired because she was required to wear a head scarf as part of her religious beliefs. This is similar to a lawsuit won against Abercrombie and Fitch in 2010 in which the plaintiff was fired for refusing to remove her religious head scarf while working on the floor. A decision is expected by July.
Under Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer cannot discriminate against employees for their religious practices and must reasonably accommodate their religious needs. Furthermore, an employer may not fire an employee due to her religious beliefs or apply personal appearance rules to religious observers that are discriminatory and inconsistent with their beliefs.
In order to avoid lawsuits, the following summarizes what companies are obligated to do:
- Employers have an obligation to make reasonable accommodations to the religious needs of employees.
- Employers must give time off for the Sabbath or holy days except in an emergency.
- If employees don’t come to work, employers may give them leave without pay, may require equivalent time to be made up, or may allow employees to charge the time against any other leave with pay, except sick pay.
- Employers may not discriminatorily apply personal appearance rules to religious observers.
- Employers may not fire workers as a result of their religious beliefs.
If you or a loved one believes that you have been fired or received poor treatment due to personal appearance practices required by your religious beliefs, you may have a legal claim. Contact an experienced New York Employment Attorney who will fight for your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.