SCOTUS Rules Abercrombie Discriminated - Shocks No One

by Kaitlin Edleman | June 01, 2015

  • My Vault

Today, the Supreme Court ruled against the once ultimate signifier of high school popularity, Abercrombie & Fitch. The Court held that the mall clothing retailer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by declining to hire Samantha Elauf in 2008 because her hijab violated the company’s “look policy,” although she scored well in the other job requirement criteria during her interview.

Title VII makes it illegal for employers to "fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual ... because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."

Interpreting Title VII, the Court found that “An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.” Because testimony showed that Elauf was not hired specifically because store employees believed she would need to wear her hijab for religious reasons and Abercrombie’s look policy at the time forbade hats and head coverings, the Court held that Abercrombie violated Title VII. 

Abercrombie’s “look policy” and brand has notoriously aimed to exclude shoppers who do not fit the Abercrombie ideal of fit, attractive and, almost necessarily, rich. Former CEO Mike Jeffries, when discussing the store’s sexy image and small sizes, commented, “That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.” He also stated that “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

In 2011, the Ross Park Mall Abercrombie was also tasked with ensuring that the store’s “models”(sales associates) were alluring enough to grace the store’s floor folding t-shirts and spritzing clothes with an excessive amount of Woods cologne. As a college student, I got a job at Abercrombie to kill time during my six-week winter break and during that time was evaluated by corporate on whether I fulfilled the “look policy.” On whether the “models” (using the term very loosely here) had “beautiful faces,” I scored 0 out of 5. ZERO. Not even half a point for just being alive and present in the store. Alas, I guess I just have a face for Internet blogging.

READ MORE:

Supreme Court Looks At Abercrombie & Fitch's Hijab Discrimination Case (NPR)
Supreme Court rules against Abercrombie in hijab case (Politico)
Abercrombie & Fitch Refuses To Make Clothes For Large Women (Business Insider)

Tags: SCOTUS

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