Muslim employee sues Abercrombie & Fitch for religious discrimination

News broke on Friday that a Muslim employee of Abercrombie & Fitch will be suing the company because she was fired for refusing to remove her hijab at work. The San Mateo Patch reported:

The woman, who has not been identified, is a Muslim, and “she was told that her headscarf, though worn based on a religious mandate, was not in compliance with the company’s ‘look policy,’” said those representing her in the lawsuit. She worked at Hollister Co., a subsidiary of Abercrombie & Fitch, in 2009 and 2010.

Abercrombie & Fitch has a spectacularly bad track record on employee discrimination. In 2005, it was the defendant in a class action suit in which female employees alleged that they had been discriminated against on the basis of race and appearance. More recently, it was in the headlines for forcing a young woman with a prosthetic limb to work in the back room, out of sight of customers – and then firing her anyway.

This case has been taken up by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC). CAIR and LAS-ELC held a press conference today. The plaintiff, Hani Khan, was also present. They are suing Abercrombie & Fitch for religious discrimination. A joint press release from CAIR-SFBA and LAS-ELC recounts the turn of events:

Khan was fired from her job at a Hollister Co. store at the Hillsdale Mall location, after working there for four months in 2009-2010. When she was initially hired in October 2009, she was told her hijab would not be in conflict with the company’s “look policy” so long as she wore it in company colors. Despite complying with this request, in February 2010 a District Manager and Corporate Human Resources Manager asked if she could remove her hijab while working. Khan was suspended and then terminated when she refused to comply with the request, and asserted her right to religious accommodation.

“When I was asked to remove my scarf after being hired with it on, I was demoralized and felt unwanted,” said Khan. “Growing up in this country where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I have felt let down.”

CAIR says that Khan’s case is far from the first or only of its kind, and that they regularly receive similar complaints from Muslim employees who face discrimination on the job. If Khan’s case succeeds, Abercrombie & Fitch will be no longer be allowed to discriminate against employees – current or potential – for refusing to remove their hijabs or comparable religious garb.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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