(SAN FRANCISCO, CA, 9/9/13) — The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) today announced a legal victory in a lawsuit against clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch over the firing of a Muslim worker who refused to remove her religiously-mandated hijab (headscarf) as a condition for keeping her job.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Abercrombie and Fitch violated federal and state civil rights laws against workplace discrimination when it fired Hani Khan in 2010 for refusing to remove her hijab. The lawsuit, which was filed by CAIR-SFBA, LAS-ELC and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sought to vindicate Khan’s rights against religious discrimination in the workplace.
In her 25-page decision, Judge Gonzalez Rogers resoundingly rejected Abercrombie’s “undue burden” defense. The decision stated in part:
“Abercrombie only offers unsubstantiated opinion testimony of its own employees to support its claim of undue hardship. Abercrombie failed to proffer any evidence from those four months showing a decline in sales in the Hillsdale store; customer complaints or confusion; or brand damage linked to Khan’s wearing of a hijab.”
“At the heart of this case is the belief that no one should ever have to choose between their religion and work,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR-SFBA. “All Americans have a right to reasonable religious accommodation in the workplace, and for Muslim women this includes the right to wear a hijab to work.”
This court is the second in the Northern District of California to find that Abercrombie cannot demonstrate that it is an undue hardship to accommodate employees who wear hijabs. Earlier this year, Abercrombie similarly failed to justify its refusal to hire a woman who applied to work at an Abercrombie Kids store in Milpitas.