Judge: Abercrombie & Fitch was wrong to fire woman over headscarf

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Abercrombie & Fitch violated the civil rights of one of its employees, when it fired her from one of its Hollister stores for wearing a hijab.

That's what U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers decided in a case that stems from a 2011 lawsuit filed on behalf of 19-year-old Umme-Hani Khan by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The San Jose Mercury News reports:

"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and civil rights lawyers sued Abercrombie over the firing, accusing the company of a pattern of religious discrimination through its so-called look policy, which restricts what the company's employees can wear at work and includes a ban on head coverings.

"The lawsuit is one of a number of cases filed against Abercrombie and other businesses around the country over alleged discrimination against Muslim women who want to wear headscarves to work, including one filed by a former Abercrombie worker at Milpitas' Great Mall and another filed against the Disneyland Hotel."

According to a press release from the EEOC, Khan was hired at a San Mateo, Calif., Hollister store in 2009, as an "impact associate," which means she worked mostly in the stock room. According to the EEOC, Khan was at first asked to wear headscarves in the color of the Hollister brand, but was then told she could not wear it all, because it violated the policies in the store's "look book." Khan was fired a few months later for refusing to take off the hijab.

"No one should have to choose between keeping their faith and keeping their job," EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said in a statement.

The BBC reports that the case now moves to a trial, where a jury will determine damages. The BBC adds:

"In her ruling, Judge Rogers said Abercrombie lawyers had only offered 'unsubstantiated opinion testimony of its own employees to support its claim of undue hardship' and had undercut its own argument by offering to rehire Ms Khan with her headscarf.

"Ms Khan was supported by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

"A spokeswoman said the organization hoped the lawsuit would push the company to change its policies and clarify religious accommodations."

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