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In search of the elusive ‘Abercrombie look’

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Dulzia Burchette, a black former saleswoman for the preppy-glam Abercrombie & Fitch clothing store chain in New York City, is suing the Ohio-based retailer for racial discrimination.

Burchette says she was harassed when she reported for work at one of the company’s New York City stores with blond highlights in her hair. A supervisor told her to lose the highlights or give up her job. When the supervisor refused to compromise, Burchette quit.

Her lawsuit points out that white employees were allowed to color their hair. It claims some black employees who colored their hair wore black wigs to comply with the hair color policy.

On its web site, Abercrombie & Fitch invites people who want to model for the company to start by working in its stores, noting that associates are “cast” for marketing campaigns. Unlike some entertainment companies, however, retailers cannot legally cast a workforce to meet a marketing image.

Abercrombie paid $50 million to settle a trio of discrimination lawsuits over the issue in 2004, and is still being monitored by the EEOC. The company told the Associated Press that it has made strides since it hired a diversity officer in 2004. The company has incorporated more faces of color into its “look book.”

The EEOC attorney monitoring Abercrombie & Fitch, however, has said the measures fall short of the “best efforts” required under the 2004 settlement.

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