Riam Dean wins disability claim against Abercrombie & Fitch

Riam Dean’s disability discrimination claim against Abercrombie & Fitch alleged that she had been pulled from the shop floor back to the stockroom: her prosthetic arm didn’t accord with the company’s “look” policy.

The tribunal has found in her favour today, finding harrassment and failure to make reasonable adjustments. See the full circumstances of the caseat the link above. Miss Dean was awarded £7,800 for injury to feelings, £1,077.37 for loss of earnings, and £137.75 for (presumably) an unfair dismissal basic award.

Decisions such as this are almost run of the mill for A&F. The company has hit the headlines in the US for banishing a Dallas employee to the stockroom for scoring a zero in the the company’s “hierarchy of hotness”, and in 2004 it settled a class action lawsuit from ethnic minorities accusing it of discrimination in employment and in its marketing materials. The New York Times reported:

Eduardo Gonzalez, the lead plaintiff and a senior chemistry major at Stanford University, said that when he applied to an Abercrombie store in Santa Clara, Calif., managers urged him to apply for the overnight stocking crew. Noting that his application was rejected, he said that when a store manager interviewed him and 13 other applicants at once, the manager overwhelmingly favored the two white applicants.

In an unusual step, the settlement calls for Abercrombie to increase diversity not just in hiring and promotions, but also in its advertisements and catalogs, which have long featured models who were overwhelmingly white and who seemed to have stepped off the football field or out of fraternities or sororities. Plaintiffs’ lawyers said they insisted that the company agree to add more diversity to its marketing materials so as not to discourage minorities from applying for jobs.

Wondering about that today I visited Abercombie.com, and looked at the Picture Gallery. All ten models are white. The same goes for the images on the ‘Mens’, ‘Womens’ and ‘Jeans’. In fact, to find a single ethnic minority you have to head over to their Kids website, where both teenage models featured are of Asian origin. Given that the shots on the main site are all half-naked, and all sexually suggestive, and the teens are (understandably) head/shoulders fully clothed shots, you can’t help wonder at Abercrombie’s boldness at segregating their minorities into the ‘cute’ rather than ‘sexy’ categories. For more invective about this vile organisation see Charon QC’s post back in June. All one can really do is hope that this whole experience has served Riam Dean well in her quest to become a lawyer.

And just for fun, check out the Top 11 diversity photoshop disasters.

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