Think long and hard and ask yourself if you support any organizations that encourage discrimination. Have you thought long enough? Good. Now, if you purchase Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister clothing, then you support a company that discriminates.While residing in Atlanta, Ga. from November 2001 through January 2003, I applied at two Abercrombie & Fitch adult clothing stores. The first store was located in Atlanta?s infamous Lenox Mall. I went in and filled out an application in November 2001 and heard nothing back. I assumed that I was simply not selected for an interview or employment.
The second store, located in North Pointe Mall in the city of Roswell, a wealthy suburb of Atlanta, displayed signs in their windows and their sales counters stating, “Now Hiring, Apply Within.” I went inside and asked for an application just as I did at the first Abercrombie & Fitch store, and was told “We are out of applications” by a Caucasian male. At that location, I was not told to submit a resume as other stores suggested. The Gap accepted my resume in place of an application that they could not provide. In fact, Burberry, Game Stop, and Soft Inc., along with others, all accepted my resume as replacement for an application. Abercrombie & Fitch did not ask for a resume, nor would they allow me to leave one behind. They told me, “It would be better if you fill out an application in person.”
Three days after I tried to apply at the North Pointe Mall store, I went to the mall again to submit applications I had taken home from other stores, and decided to try asking again for an application at Abercrombie & Fitch. Once again, I was told that they were out of applications. I immediately asked for a manager. From out of the back of the store came a Caucasian male who did not have the appearance or demeanor of a manager.
I put out my hand to shake his, which he refused to return. I asked, “May I have an application or can I leave a resume?”
He told me that the store had finished hiring all of its associates for the Christmas season and he did not encourage me to apply later on as other stores had. He didn?t even say goodbye to me.
On June 17, 2003, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund), the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center filed a class-action lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch, charging them with discrimination against applicants and employees of color. The lawsuit later included discrimination against women.
“Through means both subtle and direct, Abercrombie & Fitch 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, according to MALDEF?s Web site.
The original case, Gonzalez v. Abercrombie & Fitch, is what generated the e ntire process. Because of this case, Abercrombie & Fitch must now reform its recruitment, hiring, job assignment, promotion and training practices. Eduardo Gonzalez, a Stanford studentfrom Hayward, Calif., applied to work in the Abercrombie & Fitch store in Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara.
“When I went to apply fora 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 & Fitch because I am Latino. But I went across the mall and was hired as a sales associate at a Banana Republic store. I?ve been working successfully in sales there for almost a year,” Gonzalez said.
Plaintiff Anthony Ocampo, a recent Stanford graduate, worked during the Christmas holidays at the Abercrombie & Fitch Store in his hometown of Glendale, Calif. When he went to reapply for a summer job, Ocampo, a Filipino-American, was told he couldn?t be hired because “there?s already too many Filipinos.”
“Abercrombie?s 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 don?t 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.”
Plaintiff 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.
“Abercrombie?s 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 ?lookmore 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.” Joining together, the EEOC, MALDEF, the NAACP and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center settled their case against Abercrombie & Fitch. The group was awarded $40 million.
If you are a person of color or a woman and you feel that you were discriminated against by Abercrombie & Fitch, then you may be entitled to some of the $40 million dollar settlement.
You may file a claim by visiting http://www.abercrombieclaims. com. Claims must be submitted by March 7, 2005.
Michael-de?Shawn J. Sells is a junior majoring in liberal studies.