Class Action Suit Accuses Abercrombie & Fitch of Being 'Overwhelmingly White'

November 20, 2003 ( - Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has been charged with discrimination in a proposed nationwide class action lawsuit.

>Brandy Hawk, the lead plaintiff in the suit, alleges an Abercrombie & Fitch interviewer told her in May 2003 that she was going to be recommended for a position at the retailer’s store in the Cherry Hill (New Jersey) Mall.   However, the company later told Hawk she was passed over because she did not have the “image” that Abercrombie & Fitch wanted to present , according to a report in The Legal Intelligencer.

>Hawk’s Philadelphia-based legal team said in a news conference that their client’s experience was typical of qualified minority candidates who are routinely rejected by A&F for sales jobs or relegated to less visible positions in store stockrooms.   They went on to say the sales force at Abercrombie & Fitch’s 600-plus stores is “overwhelmingly white.”

Further, the suit alleges that Abercrombie & Fitch markets its products by selling a culture and lifestyle, which it calls the “Classic American Style.”   This style, propagated in this company’s advertisements, Web site and catalogs, features predominantly white models and is promoted in a corporate culture that promotes the hiring of young, white salespeople in its stores, the suit contends.

Backing up the plaintiff’s claims is the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).   The EEOC’s Los Angeles office attached a “letter of determination” to the suit, in which the agency said it found cause to believe that a Latino man was denied a job due to his race.

“Evidence obtained during the course of the investigation revealed that Latinos and blacks, as a class, were denied permanent positions, denied assignments and treated in an unfair manner with regard to recruitment based on their race and national origin,” the EEOC letter says.   Also attached to the suit are photographs showing group shots of store staffs around the country. Of the 167 employees pictured in the 18 photos, only one is black.

The suit, filed in the US District Court in New Jersey, is not the first discrimination case Abercrombie & Fitch has had to deal with in the past year.   Another proposed nationwide class action lawsuit was filed against the company earlier this year in California (See  Suit Says “A&F Look,” Actions Favor Whites ).