Christopher Herrera, Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center
Zahra Billoo Executive Director, CAIR–SFBA
California Muslim Sues Abercrombie & Fitch Over Hijab Firing
(SAN FRANCISCO, CA, June 27, 2011) – A San Mateo Muslim woman who was fired for refusing to remove her religious head scarf, or hijab, filed a lawsuit today in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California against Abercrombie & Fitch, her former employer.
The plaintiff, Hani Khan (Khan), is represented by the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR–SFBA) and the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center (LAS–ELC). The suit was filed in conjunction with a lawsuit filed by the San Francisco District Office of the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), on the same charges.
Khan was fired from her job at a Hollister Co. store at the Hillsdale Mall location, after working there for four months in 2009–2010. When she was initially hired in October 2009, she was told her hijab would not be in conflict with the company’s “look policy” so long as she wore it in company colors. Despite complying with this request, in February 2010 a District Manager and Corporate Human Resources Manager asked if she could remove her hijab while working. Khan was suspended and then terminated when she refused to comply with the request, and asserted her right to religious accommodation.
“When I was asked to remove my scarf after being hired with it on, I was demoralized and felt unwanted,” said Khan. “Growing up in this country where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I have felt let down.”
Following her termination, Khan filed a complaint with the EEOC. In September 2010, the EEOC issued a determination that Khan was wrongfully terminated. Attempts to conciliate between the parties failed in January 2011.
“When we first received Ms. Khan’s complaint, it was the explicitness of Abercrombie & Fitch’s discriminatory demands which concerned us. They were both egregious and illegal,” said Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of CAIR–SFBA. “For an employer to, point-blank, require an employee to relinquish their religious practice is a violation of our cherished civil rights laws.”
“Abercrombie & Fitch cannot hide behind a “Look Policy” to justify violating Ms. Khan’s civil rights. Their refusal to accommodate her wearing her hijab is not only unlawful, but un-American,” said Araceli Martínez-Olguín, an LAS–ELC Staff Attorney.
Khan’s lawsuit, which names Hollister Co. and its parent company Abercrombie & Fitch, seeks among other remedies an order to bring the defendants into compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The requested order would bar Abercrombie & Fitch from discriminating against current or potential employees for refusing to remove their religiously mandated headscarves.
The lawsuit states: “Defendants’ conduct as herein alleged violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–2(a)(1), which makes unlawful discrimination against employees on the basis of religion. The term ‘religion’ includes ‘all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.’”
CAIR–SFBA and LAS–ELC say they regularly receive reports from American Muslims with complaints and questions about their right to religious accommodation in the workplace.
About the Council on American-Islamic Relations | www.cair.com
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
About the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center | www.las-elc.org
The Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center was founded in 1916 and is committed to protecting the rights and economic self-sufficiency of low-income and disadvantaged workers and their families. The LAS–ELC provides free legal services, educational materials, technical assistance to other groups, and direct legal representation addressing racial equality; gender equity; immigration and national origin, and disability rights.