Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle
Abercrombie & Fitch and its Hollister Co. outlet in San Mateo violated the religious rights of a Muslim employee who was fired for refusing to remove her headscarf, a federal judge has ruled.
The clothing retailer failed to prove it would suffer undue hardship by accommodating the beliefs of Hani Khan, who wore the hijab mandated by her faith for four months at the store in the Hillsdale Shopping Center before she was fired in February 2010, said U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.
She said Abercrombie & Fitch, while maintaining a mandatory dress and grooming code for employees, has granted exemptions since 2005 that have allowed male employees to wear a Jewish yarmulke, a baseball cap and facial hair, a female employee to wear a jeweled cross, and more than 16 other women to wear hijabs.
Khan worked mostly in the store's stockrooms, preparing clothes for display, but occasionally entered public areas to place and remove products. The company produced no evidence of "complaints, disruption, or a noticeable effect on sales" because of her attire, Gonzalez Rogers said in her Sept. 3 ruling, which allows Khan to ask a jury for damages.
"At the heart of this case is the belief that no one should ever have to choose between their religion and their work," Zahra Billoo, Bay Area executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Monday. The organization represented Khan along with the San Francisco Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Center. (Read the full article)