Employers should embrace this mantra - “Beauty Lies In
Diversity,” and not run from it. It may sound
“politically correct,” which to some is anathema, but
it will prevent many claims of discrimination, and as studies tell
us, it is good for business!
On July 29, 2011, we reported on an Oklahoma jury which awarded
$20,000 in damages in a religious discrimination case against
Abercrombie & Fitch (EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch) where a Muslim
job applicant was refused hiring when she appeared for an interview
wearing a religiously-required headscarf. Abercrombie argued that
the scarf violated its strict "look" policy, which was in
implemented to insure a unified "preppy" brand image.
Abercrombie & Fitch has once again been hauled into court
because of its “look” policy – this time in
London and this time accused of disability discrimination. A
law student with a prosthetic arm alleges that she was removed from
the shop floor and "hidden" as a sales assistant in a
stockroom when she refused to remove her cardigan which she wore to
cover her prosthetic arm.
As reported in the The Guardian, the “‘look"
policy stipulates that all employees ‘represent Abercrombie
& Fitch with natural, classic American style consistent with
the company's brand’ and ‘look great while
exhibiting individuality.’ Workers must wear a ‘clean,
natural, classic hairstyle’ and have nails which extend
‘no more than a quarter inch beyond the tip of the
The employee claims that “A female A&F manager used
the 'look policy' and the wearing of the cardigan as an
excuse to hide me away in the stockroom. I knew then that I was
being treated different and unfairly because of my disability. Her
words pierced right through the armour of 20 years of building up
personal confidence about me as a person, and that I am much more
than a girl with only one arm. … "
"Abercrombie taught me that beauty lies in perfection, but
I would tell them that beauty lies in diversity.”
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A California Court of Appeal recently issued a short decision in Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Services, Inc., B247160 that took an expansive view of an employer’s obligation to reimburse employees for business expenses.
We have commented in many blog posts that a hostile work environment can be created in any way, by anybody, or by any means, if the employer does not address an employee complaint that the workplace has been made hostile by, say, sexually harassing behavior of an employee.