Muslim Woman Sues Abercrombie & Fitch After Alleged Firing Over Hijab

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AP Photo / Eric Risberg

Does this mean a khaki hijab won’t appear in catalogs anytime soon?

Hani Khan, a former stockroom employee for Abercrombie & Fitch Co. who says she was illegally fired for refusing to remove her Muslim headscarf, sued the clothing retailer in federal court on Monday, The Associated Press reports.

When Khan was hired to work in the San Mateo, Calif., branch of Hollister Co.—a brand owned by Abercrombie that caters to teens—she was wearing her hijab. The manager of the store reportedly said she could wear the headscarf while on the clock, so long as it was in company colors. (Which raises the question: What are those colors exactly? Distressed denim?) But Khan alleges that in subsequent months, managers constantly asked her to remove her hijab while working, and that she was later suspended, then fired for refusing.

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Abercrombie & Fitch is known for its preppy, American collegiate imprint. It’s also known for allegedly alienating its employees and getting in trouble for it. In 2004, the company settled race and gender discrimination lawsuits and agreed to include racial minorities in its all-American but largely white marketing platform. Abercrombie admitted no wrongdoing, but paid $40 million to several thousand minority and female plaintiffs and agreed to boost its diversity efforts surrounding hiring and promoting.

More recently, the company has faced a string of lawsuits that echo Kahn’s experience. In 2009, Samantha Elauf filed a federal lawsuit in Oklahoma that charged the company of denying her a sales position because she was wearing a hijab. Another lawsuit was filed in 2008 that claimed the company didn’t hire a woman at an Abercrombie Kids store in California for the same reason.

Kahn, the plaintiff in this most recent case, says four months after she was hired, two managers told her to remove the headscarf; she refused, and was later suspended and fired. “Growing up in this country where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I felt let down,” Khan said at a news conference on Monday. “This case is about principles, the right to be able to express your religion freely and be able to work in this country.”

In a comment provided to The Associated Press, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. said that diversity in its stores “far exceeds the diversity in the population of the United States.”

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