Woman fired from store for wearing headscarf

February 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Wearing a head scarf may have cost a Bay Area woman her job. Until Monday she worked at the popular apparel chain Hollister, but the teen says corporate told her religious head scarves do not fit with the company's image. Now she wants the feds to investigate.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been asked to look into the woman's sudden termination. If the agency finds she was discriminated against, that could mean a federal lawsuit against Hollister's parent company, Abercrombie and Fitch.

"I didn't realize it before, but I am different," said Hani.

This is the first time she says she felt like an outcast and now, she wants to remain anonymous.

"It did hurt," said Hani.

The 19-year-old woman is a native Californian and a Muslim who wears a Hijab, or head scarf, and on Monday she was fired from her stock room position at the Hollister store at Hillsdale Mall.

"I let him know it was for religious purposes and that I didn't wear it for recreational use, and he still said it was against the look policy," said Hani.

However, for six months, Hani's hijab look was fine with local managers as long as her scarf fit with the stores' color theme. This month corporate H.R. told Hani the hijab did not jibe with the company's laid back look.

"It seems to me that it's a blatant decision that over and over again, they are saying that our look policy is worth more than how we value the law and how we value diversity," said Zahra Billoo from the Bay Area Council on American-Islamic Relations.

CAIR sent a formal complaint to the EEOC. CAIR is accusing Hollister's corporate company, Abercrombie and Fitch, of failing to accommodate Hani's religious requirements, which are protected by federal guidelines.

CAIR also says the company violated its own diversity policy.

Abercrombie has been sued for discrimination before. In 2005, the company paid $50 million to minority groups and created new hiring policies.

In 2009, an Oklahoma woman sued the company for discriminating against her for wearing a hijab and over the years, Abercrombie has had to pull t-shirts and ads for being too controversial and offensive.

"If the company is not willing to change their policy, I'm willing to take it as far as I can because it's a national problem," said Hani.

Many Hollister shoppers were shocked by the store's recent move.

"We're known for our diversity. It's terrible," said Erica Straub from Foster City.

"That's horrible. She should be able to wear what she wants and its her religion, she needs to wear that," said Katie Lotfy from Belmont.

The local Hollister store manager referred ABC7 to corporate headquarters for a comment. ABC7 has put calls into them and are waiting for a response.