Million Payment, Detailed Plan for Diversity in Employment
Discrimination Suit Against Retail Giant Abercrombie & Fitch
|LOS ANGELES, November 16, 2004 -- Civil rights attorneys
today announced the settlement of a class action lawsuit,
Gonzalez v. Abercrombie & Fitch, requiring the
retail clothing giant to pay $40 million dollars to Latino,
African American, Asian American and women applicants and
employees who charged the company with discrimination. The
settlement, approved this morning by U.S. District Court
Judge Susan Illston, also requires the company to institute
a range of policies and programs to promote diversity among
its workforce and to prevent discrimination based on race
|The lawsuit was originally filed in U.S. District Court
in San Francisco in June 2003 by the Mexican American Legal
Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF),
Pacific American Legal Center, the NAACP
Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), and
the law firm of Lieff
Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP 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.
|"This agreement promises to transform this company,
whose distinctiveness will no longer stem from an all-white
image and workforce," stated Thomas A. Saenz, Vice
President of Litigation at MALDEF. "This welcome change
results from the courageous actions of the plaintiffs who,
beginning five years ago, stepped forward to challenge prevalent
discrimination at Abercrombie & Fitch." Saenz explained
that the case began with the 1999 filing of a charge of
discrimination by Juancarlos Gomez-Montejano.
original plaintiffs were later joined by others across the
country. During the course of the negotiations, the plaintiffs
were also represented by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC), who validated their claims, as well as
Minami, Lew & Tamaki LLP, and a team of eastern law
firms led by Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C. in Philadelphia.
|Attorney Bill Lann Lee of
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein explained the breadth
of the Consent Decree, which covers recruitment, hiring,
job assignment, promotion and training of employees. This
comprehensive package of reforms will ensure that minority
and women employees feel welcome. The company should get
credit for agreeing to changes that will transform how Abercrombie
does business, added Lee, who is the former Assistant
Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department
settlement requires the store to pursue "benchmarks"
for the hiring and promotion of Latinos, African Americans,
Asian Americans and women; the company must report on its
progress toward these goals at regular intervals to the
plaintiffs attorneys and to a Special Master named
by the court.
addition, the company must hire 25 recruiters who will seek
out minority employees. The company is barred from targeting
particular fraternities or sororities for recruitment purposes,
a practice that previously helped to ensure a predominantly
white sales staff.
ensure compliance with the provisions of the Consent Decree,
the company will name a Vice President for Diversity, and
provide diversity training for all employees with hiring
authority. A new internal complaint procedure will provide
employees with a mechanism to report any problems they face.
has more than 700 stores and a workforce of 22,000. The
retail chain uses visual media to promote the "A&F
Look" and image to employees, customers, and potential
applicants. The settlement requires that marketing materials
-- including the posters, shopping bags and catalogue --
include members of minority racial and ethnic groups.
now realizes diversity makes good business sense,"
said Kimberly West-Faulcon, Director and Western Regional
Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
"We hope the rest of corporate America gets the message."
settlement provides very detailed guidance and mechanisms
for compliance. In addition, an appointed monitor will regularly
evaluate and report on Abercrombie's compliance with
the Decree. The Consent Decree will be in effect a minimum
of four-and-a-half years; its duration will depend on the
progress of the company.
the settlement is properly implemented, the stories of the
named plaintiffs will be a thing of the past, according
to the attorneys.
Gonzalez, a Stanford student from Hayward, California, was
pleased with the settlement. "I remember how discouraged
I felt when I applied for a job at the Santa Clara store
and the manager suggested that I work in the stock room
or on the late night crew in a non-sales position. I felt
it was because I was a Latino -- but there was no one I
could report this to at the time."
Anthony Ocampo, a recent Stanford graduate, who was told
he couldnt be hired because "theres already
too many Filipinos," agreed with Gonzalez. "It
is important that Abercrombie seek out employees of color
and provide them training and opportunities for promotion."
Lu worked at the Crystal Court Mall store in Costa Mesa,
California for three years while she was a student at U.C.
Irvine. She and five other Asian American employees were
terminated after a visit from senior management and replaced
with white sales staff. "I was very distressed after
I was terminated for being an Asian American woman. I am
now very excited about the policies and programs Abercrombie
must implement that came about as a result of this lawsuit.
I am looking forward to seeing a more diverse Abercrombie;
one that actually reflects the look of America," said
Grubb, an African-American student at California State Bakersfield,
was constructively discharged from the Abercrombie store
in the Bakersfield Valley Plaza Mall after being assigned
cleaning and other menial jobs. "I felt demoralized
being the only African-American employee and being specifically
assigned to dust the store, wash the windows and clean the
floors. With this settlement, I now know that Abercrombie
cannot treat other employees of color in such a manner."
Park, staff attorney with the Asian Pacific American Legal
Center applauded the courage of the plaintiffs. "This
case is an example of a handful of individuals making an
impact in the struggle to end racial discrimination. Thanks
to these plaintiffs who stepped forward to take action,
we are going to see real change in Abercrombie stores nationwide,"
Martin J. D'Urso of Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C. explained
that the monetary awards to the class members will be based
on the number of claimants who come forward and the kind
of discrimination they faced: "The true value of this
settlement goes far beyond the money being paid to class
members. The changes that are being made, pursuant to the
consent decree, will help to transform Abercrombie into
the type of company that, I believe, its customers want
and the law demands."
will be placed on the Internet and in major magazines to
alert class members from around the country. People who
feel they are part of the class should call 1-866-854-4175
or go to www.abercrombieclaims.com
where they can submit information.
addition, Abercrombie & Fitch will pay all the costs
to monitor the compliance as well as attorneys' fees.
Attorneys estimated that would be approximately an additional
Note: People who feel they are part of the class should
call 1-866-854-4175 or go to www.abercrombieclaims.com
where they can submit information. A copy of the Consent
Decree and this press release are posted at http://afjustice.com/media.htm.
J.C. Flores (MALDEF): 213-629-2512 ext.124
Stephen H. Cassidy (Lieff Cabraser): 415-956-1000
Marcy De Veaux/John Tucker, NAACP LDF: 310/ 342-5130
Julie Su, APALC: 213-718-5817
Elaine Elinson: 415/203-4378