Abercrombie Settles Discrimination Suit

November 10, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Retail giant Abercrombie & Fitch has agreed to settle three discrimination lawsuits for a total nearing $50 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing.

The details of the settlement are not being disclosed as of now, according to legal publication The Recorder. The details will likely be released after Judge Susan Illston of the US District Court for the Northern District of California rules on whether or not to grant approval to the proposed settlement. The Recorder did however state that there will likely be some form of injunctive relief included in the payout.

The lawsuit, covering 16 plaintiffs, stems from what opponents of the company say are racial and gender-based discriminatory actions with regards to the company’s hiring policy. Attorneys representing individual plaintiffs, advocacy groups and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have alleged that hiring practices by almost 700 stores have favored white male applicants, according to The Recorder.

The lead attorney, Bill Lann Lee, a partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, filed the racial discrimination claim, while Jack Lee of Minami, Lew & Tamaki filed the gender allegations. The EEOC filed claims covering both charges. The suit has not been classified as a class action as of yet, however.

Multiple rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Rainbow/Push Coalition, have backed the suit.

These suits are not the only ones that have been brought against the clothing retailer. Last November, another discrimination suit that was attempting to garner class-action status was brought against Abercrombie in New Jersey(See Class Action Suit Accuses Abercrombie & Fitch of Being ‘Overwhelmingly White’ ).

The case is seen as setting a standard for discrimination lawsuits, some industry analysts believe, according to The Recorder. Because the claims span such a broad area and not just a single form of discrimination, some believe that this will open the door for unconventional claims.