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Disabled Shop Girl Suing Abercrombie & Fitch for Discrimination

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abercrombie disabled shop girl
London Daily Mail: 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 claims she was told she broke the company's 'Look Policy', which dictates how members of staff are meant to present themselves.

The company has been criticised for recruiting only young and beautiful assistants and was recently forced to settle a £25 million law suit over the issue in the U.S.

Shoppers entering its new Savile Row shop are greeted by two bare-chested young men, clad in low-slung jeans and flip flops.

Miss Dean, from Greenford, West London, applied for a job with the company last May to fund the final months of her law degree at London's Queen Mary University.

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.

She said: 'I was never asked whether I had a disability at my interview and, to be honest, it never occurred to me to mention it.

'It wouldn't stop me doing my job and I certainly didn't want or expect any special treatment. All they seemed interested in was taking my photograph to make sure I had the right image.'

After being told she had got the job she went along to an induction day where she was issued a 45-page handbook listing in minute detail the company's strict Look Policy.

It stipulates that staff must represent a 'natural, classic American style' and instructs them on everything from how to wear their hair (clean and natural) to how long they should wear their nails (a quarter of an inch past the end of the finger).

She 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, who 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."

'I pride myself on being quite a confident girl but I had never experienced prejudice like that before and it made me feel utterly worthless.

'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.

Four years ago, Abercrombie settled the £25million lawsuit, in which nine former employees accused the firm of discrimination.

The litigants, all from ethnic minority groups, said they were forced to work in stockrooms or take night shifts because they did not fit the 'Abercrombie look'.

A spokesman for Abercrombie & Fitch said: 'A&F has a strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy and is committed to providing a supportive and dignified environment for all of its employees.'

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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Toni June 15, 2009, 5:36 PM

I love that the store needs a “classic American style” look……they are in LONDON!!!!

crystal June 16, 2009, 2:16 AM

hey i am forty and when i went to apply there they made it clear i had to wear there clothes and fit in i walked out

zebra June 16, 2009, 3:44 AM

How disgusting. I am disabled in both my arms so I know what its like to have to get through life as normally as possible whilst coping with daily challenges. As a consumer with clout in my pocket, Abercrombies won’t be getting a single penny of my money as a result of their policies.

Riam Dean, you are a beautiful young woman, and I hope you sue the pants off these jerks.

Jen June 16, 2009, 12:54 PM

Oh my gosh a horrible, discriminatory store was horrible and discriminatory.

*yawn*

But hey, at least she doesn’t have to worry about paying for college now. That’s a plus.

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