Teen accuses clothing store of discrimination

Tuesday, August 5th 2008, 10:05 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Loren, for NEWS 9

TULSA, Okla. -- A Tulsa teenager accused an Abercrombie and Fitch clothing store of religious discrimination. 

She said she was denied a job at the store because she wears a Muslim headscarf.  The teen and an Islamic advocacy group filed an official complaint and have sought public support.

Like many teens her age, the 18-year-old high school graduate is into music and fashion, but unlike many Tulsa teens she is Muslim and wears a headscarf.

"It's a hard thing to start wearing a headscarf because there's always side effects of wearing a headscarf. People like saying things and stuff like that," said the applicant.

She asked not to be identified because her mother fears for her safety after the teen stirred up a controversy. 

It began with a job application at Woodland Hills Mall.  She said the district manager for Abercrombie and Fitch denied her a job she was qualified for.

"And, he was like no she can't work here no matter what, wearing that on her head," said the applicant.

According to her, the manager said she did not fit the Abercrombie image. The store supplies their employees with an image booklet.  It even asks the question:  "Does your staff look like ours?"

"You can't tell if someone's Muslim or not, you know?" said the applicant.

For the first time in her life, she felt she had been discriminated against because of her religion, but she was going to fight it.

"Yeah, I'm proud of who I am. I'm not going to change who I am just to work somewhere," said the applicant.

She enlisted the help of the Islamic advocacy group, CAIR Oklahoma.

Based off the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CAIR filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and asked Abercrombie for an apology.

"And it's our First Amendment, protection and freedom of religion.  And so, we want to make sure they adhere to what America really is," said Razi Hashmi with CAIR Oklahoma.

For a young woman looking toward college and her place in the world, this fight meant more than a job at Abercrombie and Fitch.

"I think it will set an example for Muslim girls not to be afraid to apply for a job just because they wear a headscarf," said the applicant.

In 2004, Abercrombie and Fitch settled a $40 million racial discrimination lawsuit where they were forced to make their image more diverse.  However, the verbiage in that consent decree never specifically mentions religious diversity.

The company has not responded to inquiries about the complaint, but they told CAIR Oklahoma they would not comment until they received an official complaint from the EEOC.