Cabraser and Civil Rights Organizations Announce Abercrombie & Fitch Charged with Employment Discrimination in Federal
Class Action Lawsuit
Retail Clothier's "A & F Look" Designed
to Exclude Employees of Color
|June 17, 2003 -- Civil rights attorneys today announced
the filing of a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court
in San Francisco charging that the hiring and employment
practices of Abercrombie & Fitch, one of the nations
largest clothing retailers, discriminate against Latino,
Asian American and African American applicants and employees.
|The lawsuit, Gonzalez et al. v. Abercrombie & Fitch,
was filed on behalf of nine young adults of color, including
students and graduates of the University of California and
Stanford, who were refused sales jobs or terminated based
on their race or ethnicity. The plaintiffs are represented
(Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), the
American Legal Center, the NAACP
Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), and
the law firm of Lieff
Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP.
|"Through means both subtle and direct, Abercrombie
has consistently reinforced to its store managers that they
must recruit and maintain an overwhelmingly white workforce,"
charged Thomas A. Saenz, Vice President of Litigation for
MALDEF. "The company has systematically cultivated
an all-white 'A&F Look' and then faulted Latino, African
American and Asian American applicants, potential recruits
and employees for failing to fit this racially exclusive
image," added Saenz.
also praised Juancarlos Gomez-Montejano, a UCLA student
who was terminated from the Abercrombie store in Santa Monica,
for initially bringing the racist employment practices to
the attention of MALDEF.
|Lieff, Cabraser attorney Bill
Lann Lee, former Assistant Attorney General for Civil
Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, said this is an
important case that challenges a widespread centralized
practice of a major nationwide retailer. For many
of the plaintiffs this is their first foray into the job
market. It is tragic that Abercrombie taught these young
adults that workplace discrimination is not just something
in their history books.
hope this lawsuit will teach another lesson: Federal civil
rights law absolutely prohibits the exclusion and discrimination
alleged, and the court can provide a remedy for injustice,"
has more than 600 stores and a workforce of 22,000. The
retail chain stores use visual media -- including wall-sized
photographs of models, the A&F Quarterly magazine, and
a television program played on a loop, as well as overwhelmingly
white Brand Representatives on the sales floor -- to promote
the "A&F Look" and image to employees, customers,
and potential applicants. "Promotion of this image
facilitates Abercrombies discriminatory employment
practices," noted MALDEF attorney Saenz.
Gonzalez, a Stanford student from Hayward, California, applied
to work in the Abercrombie store in Valley Fair Mall in
Santa Clara. "When I went to apply for a part-time
job, I noticed that all of the sales staff were white. The
manager suggested that I work in the stock room or on the
late night crew in a non-sales position.
| . "I
was discouraged and felt that I was discriminated against
by Abercrombie because I am Latino. But I went across the
mall and was hired as a sales associate at a Banana Republic
store. Ive been working successfully in sales there
for almost a year," Gonzalez added.
Anthony Ocampo, a recent Stanford graduate, worked during
the Christmas holidays at the Abercrombie Store in Glendale,
California, his hometown. When he went to reapply for a
summer job, Ocampo, a Filipino-American, was told he couldnt
be hired because "theres already too many Filipinos."
version of the 'back of the bus' means not letting you on
the bus at all," said Kimberly West-Faulcon, Director
of the Western Regional Office of the NAACP Legal Defense
and Educational Fund (LDF). "They dont want people
of color working in their stores and if minorities do manage
to get hired, often the store managers are ordered by company
officials to either fire them or reassign them to the stockroom."
Jennifer Lu worked at the Crystal Court Mall store in Costa
Mesa, California for three years while she was a student
at U.C. Irvine. "Abercrombies corporate representatives
came to our store on an inspection tour, pointed to a picture
of a white male model and told the manager that he needed
to make the store 'look more like this.'" Lu said.
"Within two weeks, five Asian American employees, including
me, were terminated and an African American Brand Representative
was transferred to the night shift at a different store.
The store then hired about five white Brand Representatives
to replace us."
Park, Staff Attorney at the Asian American Pacific Legal
Center praised the plaintiffs for stepping forward. "These
very bright and highly qualified applicants were refused
jobs or denied equal treatment because of their race and
ethnicity. Abercrombie has sent a clear signal that people
of color are not welcome. These plaintiffs now stand together
on behalf of all people of color who have been subjected
to Abercrombies discriminatory practices to fight
for their right to fair and equal treatment."
also announced a website, www.afjustice.com,
for people who want to join or assist the lawsuit. "If
you have been discriminated against by Abercrombie or have
been discouraged from applying, or if you have witnessed
discrimination by Abercrombie, we want to hear from you."
suit seeks a court order that Abercrombie & Fitch end
its alleged policy and practice of discrimination, and award
back pay and money damages to plaintiffs and class members.
J.C. Flores (MALDEF): 213-629-2512 ext.124
Bill Lann Lee (Lieff Cabraser)
/ Kelly Dermody: 415-956-1000
Minah Park (APALC): 213-977-7500 ext. 220
Shaleek Wilson (LDF): 323-469-8680 ext.229