Employers should embrace this mantra – “Beauty Lies In Diversity,” and not run from it. It may sound “politically correct,” which to some is anathema, but it will prevent many claims of discrimination, and as studies tell us, it is good for business!
On July 29, 2011, we reported on an Oklahoma jury which awarded $20,000 in damages in a religious discrimination case against Abercrombie & Fitch (EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch) where a Muslim job applicant was refused hiring when she appeared for an interview wearing a religiously-required headscarf. Abercrombie argued that the scarf violated its strict “look” policy, which was in implemented to insure a unified “preppy” brand image.
Abercrombie & Fitch has once again been hauled into court because of its “look” policy – this time in London and this time accused of disability discrimination. A law student with a prosthetic arm alleges that she was removed from the shop floor and “hidden” as a sales assistant in a stockroom when she refused to remove her cardigan which she wore to cover her prosthetic arm.
As reported in the The Guardian, the “‘look” policy stipulates that all employees ‘represent Abercrombie & Fitch with natural, classic American style consistent with the company’s brand’ and ‘look great while exhibiting individuality.’ Workers must wear a ‘clean, natural, classic hairstyle’ and have nails which extend ‘no more than a quarter inch beyond the tip of the finger.’”
The employee claims that “A female A&F manager used the ‘look policy’ and the wearing of the cardigan as an excuse to hide me away in the stockroom. I knew then that I was being treated different and unfairly because of my disability. Her words pierced right through the armour of 20 years of building up personal confidence about me as a person, and that I am much more than a girl with only one arm. … “
“Abercrombie taught me that beauty lies in perfection, but I would tell them that beauty lies in diversity.”