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Former employee wins discrimination lawsuit against retailer

Many of our Colorado readers probably saw the case of a Muslim woman who recently won an employment discrimination case against clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. The case made national headlines and the results could go a long ways toward curbing discrimination based on religion in the workplace.

The case involved a woman who was employed by Abercrombie & Fitch and insisted on wearing a hijab, or head scarf, while on the job. A hijab is traditional clothing worn by some females who adhere to the Islamic faith. The conflict between employer and employee arose because Abercrombie & Fitch declared that the head scarf violated company policy on how employees were supposed to be dressed while working in the company's stores. The company maintained that the look of employees was part of an overall marketing strategy and a female wearing a hijab could have an adverse effect on sales.

A federal district court took the employee's side in the case, and ruled that the company had violated anti-discrimination employment law. A damages award has not been decided yet, but it could be substantial.

There is a fine line between what an employer can require an employee to wear as a uniform and what violates state and federal employment laws meant to prohibit discrimination. It is not known whether or not this employee wore the hijab during her initial interview with the employer, or if she didn't wear it at that time and only started wearing it after she got the job. Regardless, it appears that the employee put forth a stronger case than the employer, although the employer may appeal any final judgment in the case.

Source: USA Today, "Judge: Abercrombie wrongly fired Muslim for hijab," Paul Elias, Sept. 9, 2013

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