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Third time's a charm, or is it for clothier Abercrombie & Fitch?

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. made a splash when the company’s teen clothing line first hit the market. It was even expanded from the original brand to offshoot stores, like Hollister. The company continues to make the news, but it hasn’t been for the best reasons. Several lawsuits have been filed against the company in recent years over a variety of employment rights violations -- one of which has repeatedly been employment discrimination.

Twice, the company was sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for religious discrimination involving Muslim employees or applicants who wore the traditional headscarf known as a hijab. Twice, the district court judges ruled against the company’s undue hardship defense.

One might think that the two separate lawsuits would have had an effect on company policy and operations, but a third lawsuit was recently filed against the company by a Muslim employee in federal court. As reported by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for the third time, the lawsuit involved the employee being told that her religious headscarf did not meet the company-wide dress code.

After already altering her headwear to fit the brand’s colors, the company told the employee that she would not be given any more hours until she removed it completely. When the employee refused to follow the “Look Policy,” her employment was terminated.

Again, the district court refused to accept the company’s argument that “its Look Policy goes to the ‘very heart of [its] business model’ and thus any requested accommodation to deviate from the Look Policy threatens the company’s success.”

The sad truth is that the some companies continue to make the same discriminatory decisions over and over again. The good news is that employees who suffer the discrimination can seek relief through a civil lawsuit, even if they aren’t the first one to do so.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Abercrombie & Fitch Liable for Religious Discrimination in EEOC Suit, Court Says,” Sept. 9, 2013

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