Abercrombie & Fitch worker banished to stockroom for breaking ‘look policy’
From the Daily Mail 16/06/09:
A disabled law student is suing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for discrimination, claiming it made her work in a stockroom because her prosthetic arm didn't fit its public image.
Riam Dean, 22, was just days into a part-time job at the U.S. firm's flagship London store when she says she was asked to leave the shop floor.
She was born with her left forearm missing and has worn a prosthetic limb since she was three months old but insists she has never allowed her disability to get in her way.
[Dean] was also given a uniform of jeans and a polo shirt, although the company handbook does state that sales associates can wear their own clothing as long as it is in 'Abercrombie style'.
Miss Dean, ... normally wears long-sleeved tops to disguise the join between her upper arm and artificial limb, says she was told to buy a plain white cardigan to wear over her uniform.
But matters came to a head a few days later.
'A worker from what they call the "visual team", people who are employed to go round making sure the shop and its staff look up to scratch, came up to me and demanded I take the cardigan off.
'I told her, yet again, that I had been given special permission to wear it,' she recalled.
'A few minutes later my manager came over to me and said: "I can't have you on the shop floor as you are breaking the Look Policy. Go to the stockroom immediately and I'll get someone to replace you."
'Afterwards I telephoned the company's head office where a member of staff asked whether I was willing to work in the stockroom until the winter uniform arrived.
'That was the final straw. I just couldn't go back.'
Miss Dean, who has just sat her final law exams, is due to take her case to the Central London Employment Tribunal later this month and is seeking damages of £25,000
Aside from the rather shocking issues of (alleged) discrimination here, it’s the fickleness of companies when it comes to uniforms which always astounds me. With a casual dress code such as the one Abercrombie & Fitch employed, policing the uniformity of the ‘uniforms’ with such uncompromising rigidity is frankly bizarre. Let’s remember that this debacle essentially kicked-off over a white cardigan (the same colour as the polo shirts which Abercrombie & Fitch require their shop floor workers to wear) and which the branch manager had verified as being suitable. Anecdotally, I’ve heard recently of a well known chain in the British high street which employs a more conventional uniform and implements a ‘black sock only policy’. This aspect they police in the manner of the Gestapo, yet inexplicably turn a blind eye to a couple of workers arriving to work in jeans and permit them to work at the tills.
More often than not panics over uniform are induced by a visit from head office – a guaranteed way of ensuring the management adopt a misguided and delusional sense of prioritisation in the immediate future. (Read as *more* misguided and delusional than usual). It’s ironic that employers worry excessively over policing uniform standards when it is the conduct and work ethic of their staff which remains the real problem.
But credit to Riam Dean here for having the fortitude to make a stand over this. Perhaps she took employment law as an option on her LLB. ;-)
Interestingly Abercrombie & Fitch settled over allegations of discrimination back in 2005 for $25 million.