Employees of the teen clothing store Abercrombie and Fitch and its associated brands are speaking out against the company, saying that the dress code for retail workers is too strict and that it discriminates against workers who wish to wear religious clothing.
The retailer has been known to have very specific requirements for employee dress, down to the number of buttons to fasten on a shirt and the width of the cuff at the bottom of jeans. Experts say that the job market has enabled this type of behavior by companies who are able to recruit workers and make stricter demands because workers are so eager to find employment. However, in three separate religious discrimination lawsuits recently filed against the company employees allege that they have gone too far.
Federal labor laws require employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees who have genuinely held religious beliefs as long as it does not present an undue hardship on the company. Abercrombie has argued that it is an undue hardship to allow religious clothing like cross necklaces or hijabs at the store since employee dress “goes to the heart of their business model.”
This argument is rather tenuous and may not hold up infront of a judge. At this point it is important for employees to remember that they are owed a reasonable accommodation and that displaying a religious symbol or wearing religiously mandating clothing is allowed as a matter of dress code or by way of reasonable accommodation in most American workplaces.
Source: Huffington Post, “Abercrombie Dress Code Enables Discrimination, Insiders Say,” Kim Bhasin and Caroline Fairchild, Sept. 19, 2013