Hani Khan worked as a stockroom employee at teen clothing retailer, Hollister, until she was fired, she says, for refusing to remove her hijab. She’s now suing the store’s parent company, Abercrombie & Fitch.
At a news conference in San Francisco Monday, the 20-year-old Muslim woman said her manager had no objection to the traditional head covering when she was hired. But four months later, a district manager and human resources manager suspended, then fired her for refusing to remove the hijab, she says. The company denies breaking the law.
“Growing up in this country where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I felt let down,” the college student told reporters. “This case is about principles, the right to be able to express your religion freely and be able to work in this country.”
Rocky Robbins, Abercrombie’s general counsel, said, “We comply with the law regarding reasonable religious accommodation, and we will continue to do so.”
“We are confident that when this matter is tried, a jury will find that we have fully complied with the law,” he said to the Associated Press,
When Khan was fired in February, she told KTVU that the human resources representative “told me that my hijab was not in compliance with the ‘look policy’ and that they don't wear any scarves or hats while working.”
This so-called “look policy” has come under fire before. Two other women have sued the company claiming they weren’t hired because they wear hijabs. Samantha Elauf’s 2009 lawsuit against the company is still ongoing.
In 2009, the company lost a lawsuit filed by an Abercrombie stockroom employ in London, Riam Dean, who said she was harassed for wearing a cardigan to cover her prosthetic arm that didn’t fit the “look policy.”
This lawsuit comes one week after the Council on American-Islamic Relations and U.C. Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender released a report that found Islamophobia — defined in the report as “close-minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims” — is growing in the U.S. The report cites polling data that shows some Americans have a negative view of Islam, including an August 2010 Pew poll that showed only 30 percent of American have give Islam a favorable rating.
Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR in San Francisco, responded to Khan’s complaint, saying in a press release, “It was the explicitness of Abercrombie & Fitch’s discriminatory demands which concerned us. They were both egregious and illegal.”
“For an employer to, point-blank, require an employee to relinquish their religious practice is a violation of our cherished civil rights laws,” she continued.
Watch Khan at the press conference Monday below: