Suit Says "A&F Look," Actions Favor Whites

June 17, 2003 ( - Upscale clothier Abercrombie & Fitch has been slapped with a lawsuit that alleges the firm uses a disproportionately white sales force, buries minorities in less-visible jobs and cultivates a virtually all-white image in its catalogues and its stores.

According to the lawsuit, which is seeking class certification, the firm has a policy that requires all sales people to exhibit an all-white “A&F look.” Posters and a television program in stores display models that are mostly white, as does the company’s catalogue, according to the lawsuit.

The federal lawsuit was filed Monday by nine Hispanic and Asian plaintiffs, students and graduates of the University of California and Stanford, who claim to have been refused sales jobs or terminated based on their race or ethnicity. The suit alleges that Abercrombie discriminates against blacks, Hispanics and Asians by enforcing a nationwide corporate policy of preferring white employees for sales positions and job assignments, according to the Associated Press. The firm also encourages recruitment from overwhelmingly white fraternities and sororities, according to the plaintiffs.

“If you look at the material they put out, they are cultivating an all-white look,” said Thomas Saenz, vice president of litigation at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs. “It is difficult to understand why, given that their target age demographic is even more heavily minority than the rest of the population.”

A spokesman for the company, which targets college students with its upscale casual clothing, declined to comment for the AP report. Minah Park, Staff Attorney at the Asian American Pacific Legal Center, announced a website, , for people who want to join or assist the lawsuit.

The company has been accused of racial insensitivity in the past, according to the report. Last spring, it removed T-shirts from stores after Asian-American groups complained about depictions of two slant-eyed men in conical hats and the slogan “Wong Brothers Laundry Service – Two Wongs Can Make it White.”