You don’t look like us says Abercrombie and Fitch

September 24, 2010

Abercrombie & Fitch, clothing retailers, have decided that there is a “look” their employees must have and it doesn’t include wearing a head scarf.  The company refused to hire an 18-year-old Muslim because she was wearing a head scarf that did not reflect the “Abercrombie look.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed claims challenging the company’s assertion that they make every reasonable attempt to accommodate different religious practices.  A previous lawsuit resulted in Abercrombie paying $40 million dollars to atone for racial bias incidents against Asian, black and Hispanic employees who had been “steered to low-visibility, back of the store jobs.”

The increase in complaints of employment discrimination from Muslims is now at a record number; up 20% in 2009 with another surge happening in 2010. Muslims Report Rising Discrimination at Work

There’s a level of hated and animosity that is shocking, said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney of the E.E.O.C.’s Phoenix office. I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and I’ve never seen such antipathy toward Muslim workers.

Although Muslims make up less than 2 percent of the United States population, they accounted for about one-quarter of the 3,386 religious discrimination claims filed with the E.E.O.C. last year.

A Disneyland employee, who is Muslim, had been working at the company’s Storyteller’s Cafe for two years when she was asked to move to work in the back of the cafe if she was going to continue to wear the head scarf she began wearing during Ramadan last month.

They were concerned the head scarf clashed with the restaurant’s early-1900s theme. Muslim employee accuses Disney of discrimination
I’m trying to understand how having costumed Chipmunks walking around the Storyteller’s restaurant and the serving of Mickey Mouse ear waffles reflects the early-1900s.

Now there’s a story to tell.

It’s easy to formulate “perfectly logical explanations” for why employers would respond in this way to Muslim women wearing headscarves. The truth, however, is not so easy to admit:  They don’t look like us and we don’t know what to do about that. Out of sight is out of mind.  Move to the back of the cafe, the bus, and the store and we can create a story that doesn’t have you in it.

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