SAN FRANCISCO – Trendy clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has agreed to make religious accommodations and allow workers to wear head scarves as part of a settlement of discrimination lawsuits filed in California, lawyers announced Monday.
The retailer will now allow hijabs, the traditional head scarves worn by many Muslim women when in public.
One judge determined the Ohio-based company fired a Muslim worker from a California store, while another judge said it refused to hire another woman in the state because of their refusal to remove their hijabs during work.
The rulings came after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed lawsuits on behalf of both women.
In court papers filed Friday, Abercrombie agreed to pay the women a combined $71,000 and unspecified attorney fees. Additionally, it has established an appeals process for workers who believe they were denied religious accommodations.
"Abercrombie & Fitch does not discriminate based on religion, and we grant reasonable religious accommodations when they are requested," the company said in a statement. "With respect to hijabs, in particular, we determined three years ago to institute policy changes that would allow such headwear."
Abercrombie will pay Hani Khan $48,000 after firing her four months after she began working in the company's San Mateo store in 2009. She had been allowed to wear a hijab that matched the company's colors until a district manager visited the store in February 2010 and saw her for the first time in a hijab.
Khan was fired soon after when the company determined hijabs violated the company's "look policy" and detracted from its brand, the lawsuit stated.
"It wasn't about the money," Khan, 23, said at a San Francisco news conference. "It was a matter of principle."
Khan recently graduated from college and is looking for work.
Halla Banafa will receive $23,000 to settle her lawsuit that alleged Abercrombie discriminated by refusing to give her a job at its Milpitas store in 2008 when she was 18. Banafa didn't attend the press conference Monday.
Khan's trial had been scheduled to begin in Oakland on Sept. 30. A judge previously found that Abercrombie was liable for discrimination and all that was left for jurors to decide was how much Abercrombie should pay and what it needed to do to rectify the policy.