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Woman 'Shocked' Over Headscarf Firing

Hani Khan, 20, of Foster City said she had never faced discrimination before being fired from an Abercrombie & Fitch subsidiary at Hillsdale Mall.

A Foster City woman who is suing Abercrombie & Fitch for said she was “completely shocked” when she lost her job after she had been working at a retail store at the for four months.

Hani Khan, 20, said it was the first time in her life she had faced discrimination since she started wearing a headscarf in kindergarten. As a Muslim, she chooses to wear a headscarf, or hijab, that covers her hair, ears and neck as part of her religious practice of modesty when in public.

“Nothing like this has ever happened to me,” Khan said.

According to the lawsuit filed today in United States District Court, Khan started working at a Hollister Co. store in San Mateo's Hillsdale Shopping in October 2009. (Hollister Co. is a subsidiary of Abercrombie & Fitch.)

Khan, who was 19 at the time, said she was looking for a job to help her pay expenses as a college student. She applied at Hollister Co. because friends worked at the store.

“They told me they were hiring, and it seemed like a fun place to work,” Khan said.

Khan said she wore her headscarf to the interview, and the hiring manager asked her if she would wear a hijab in company colors to comply with Abercrombie & Fitch’s “look policy,” which Khan said she agreed to do. The “look policy” sets guidelines for employee attire and is distributed in the employee manual, according to Zahrah Billoo, one of Khan’s attorneys from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“When I got hired by the store manager, they didn’t have a problem,” Khan said.

Khan described the “look policy” as clothes that convey a “beachy, fun vibe.” During her four months of employment, she wore jeans, a t-shirt, flip flops and her headscarf in required colors. She worked in the stockroom but made trips to the sales floor in the course of her duties.

In early February 2010, a district manager saw Khan at work while visiting the store, according to the lawsuit. On Feb. 15, the district manager called Khan into a meeting and asked her to speak on the phone with Abercrombie & Fitch’s director of human resources, Amy Yoakum, according to the lawsuit.

Khan said Yoakum told her the hijab violated the company’s “look policy” and asked her if she would remove the hijab. When she refused to do so, citing her religious beliefs, Yoakum suspended her, Khan said.

A week later, Yoakum again asked Khan if she would remove her hijab at work. When Khan again refused, Yoakum said the Abercrombie & Fitch couldn’t accommodate her religious observance and fired her, according to the complaint.

Abercrombie & Fitch could not be contacted for comment. The company is currently facing two other discrimination suits related to employees wearing headscarves.

“I think at that time, someone at the corporate office decided the diversity we celebrate in the Bay Area didn’t fit in with their ‘look policy,’” Billoo said.

“My coworkers and my manager were surprised,” Khan said. “When I came out [my manager] asked why I was leaving.”

A lifelong resident of Foster City and a product of public schools, Khan said she was used to being a minority and enjoyed diverse environments growing up.

“The hijab was never a problem,” Khan said. Though people asked her questions about her head covering, she said, “it was never regarded as anything more than an extra article of clothing.”

“After 9/11, all my neighbors, all my classmates, they all supported me,” Khan said.

Since her case has become public, Khan has received death threats, which she called “frightening.”

“They talked about decapitating my head and wrapping it around pig skin and burying it,” Khan said.

Khan filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and in September 2010, the commission found that she had been wrongly terminated. Federal law requires that employers make reasonable accommodation for employees’ religious beliefs.

Conciliation efforts between Khan and Abercrombie & Fitch failed in January of this year. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed its own lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch.

Khan is represented by attorneys from the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center in addition to the Council on American-Islamic relations. Her lawsuit alleges that Abercrombie & Fitch violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

The lawsuit requests back pay and punitive damages, but her attorney says her top priority is for Abercrombie & Fitch to change its “look policy” to allow for religiously mandated attire.

Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 08:42 AM
i agree with you nicole! and daniel, if you're so smart, tell me, where in their policy say she's not allowed to wear the head dress? here, i'll even help you out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_Co.#Look_policy that's a link to their dress code, tell me, do you see anywhere that it says she can't wear it? i didn't think so... get a life
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 08:42 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_Co.#Look_policy do some research. where does it say she can't wear it?
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 08:46 AM
@ michael, you are a very smart man, and the whole thing is ridiculous...
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 08:48 AM
@ dave, go back to school, you obviously need the education. it's speech not speach, @barbara, thank you for pointing that out. its ignorance and plain stupidity that make people from all over the world hate america... @ common sense, i completely agree
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 08:50 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_Co.#Look_policy where does it say that wearing a scarf is against their policy? you find it for me.... she wasn't going against dress code.
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 08:51 AM
agree with common sense... and if the store was in america then yes...free country
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 08:52 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_Co.#Look_policy you tell me where you find anything that says she's not following dress code... you can't find it because it's not there. she's got grounds here.
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 08:56 AM
re-read the article. she's cali born and bred so having them go to her country means they stay right where they're at... just because she's of arab decent doesn't mean she was born there. hell i'm german, lithuanian, english, irish, french, and scottish, that doesn't mean i was born in all those place or that i'm a nazi or drink to much or am snooty i was born and raised in illinois, i am an american just as much as she is.
Common Sense June 29, 2011 at 09:00 AM
That's actually a very creative and clear analogy. Your point is made well. Though I am from the camp that "she got the job fair and square", I also maintain (I wrote my opinion around here somewhere earlier today) that it is highly odd that she would choose to work in a place that directly contradicts her religion... it directly contradicts the POINT of where her burqa. It just doesn't make any sense. And whoever decided to hire her were obviously trying to be sensitive (possibly due to lawsuit fear) despite THEIR own contradiction to the image of their store. Decisions were made and she was hired and the people tasked with maintaining uniformity among the stores were caught in a bad predicament. In the least, they might have offered her an office job if (I know, "if") they had a corporate office nearby. Or maybe they could have given her a great reference and pulled some favors to get her a job at a friend of the corporation. Odd circumstances.
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 09:01 AM
if you don't like it go back to italy or wherever you're from...your name obviously means you aren't american and are a part of the mob. don't like the stereotype? don't stereotype other people...she was born and raised in america, is an american citizen BARELY EVEN AN ADULT! YOU ARE CRITICIZING A YOUNG GIRL FOR PRACTICING HER BELIEFS IN A FREE COUNTRY WHERE YOU ARE ALLOWED TO DO SUCH A THING, SOMETHING OUR FOREFATHERS HAVE FOUGHT FOR US TO BE ABLE TO HAVE! and no V, it is not part of their dress code. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_Co.#Look_policy look at it...do you see anything in there saying she's in thee wrong? i didn't think so! because ITS NOT THERE! and she's american just as much as you. you don't like it? move to somewhere that she doesn't have the rights she does here... then bitch and complain because she is expressing herself as an american citizen!
Common Sense June 29, 2011 at 09:05 AM
And I hope the same thing for you, too, Rosemary. If you are Christian, I know what I speak of just as Saad knows of Islam. I was Christian, too.
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 09:05 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_Co.#Look_policy do some research, where is there anything stating she can't wear it. plus, EVERYONE EVERYWHERE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA MUST COMPLY WITH THE SAME NON DISCRIMINATORY GUIDELINES WHEN HIRING you cannot discriminate due to race, sexuality, gender,military status, etc. if you do, then you bet your ass people have the right to sue due to a violation of their constitutional rights as an american citizen
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 09:05 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_Co.#Look_policy where do you see it say she can't wear it? no where, because it doesn't say that. the company is wrong, she's right
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 09:09 AM
the american way is to do whatever you want. to follow whatever religion and practice whatever you want to in any public forum (as long as it isn't streaking, that is a crime called public indecency) she isn't trying to make you convert to islam by wearing her head dress, it's no different than a crucifix, or star of david, or pentagram depending on your beliefs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_Co.#Look_policy where does it say she's breaking their rules? it doesn't...do some research before you open your mouth... and i agree with you cynthia, i think ignorance and just plain stupidity has alot to do with it too though
Common Sense June 29, 2011 at 09:11 AM
Oh, geez: LOGIC FAIL. You followed the rules so you won't get in trouble, not out of respect. I'm sure there were times as an American, you made a spectacle of yourself (against their social norms) without even realizing it. For some in those countries, simply having an American accent is probably enough to have at least SOME of them rolling their eyes at you later when they talk to their friends. And I can't tell if you're for or against the girl or the company because the beginning part of your comment suggest she follow our "rules" as a visitor (not that she's a visitor and not that no scarves is an American RULE), and then you end with talking about greed (something companies are known for --it's their function in a free-market society). You're all over the map.
Common Sense June 29, 2011 at 09:14 AM
Oh, that won't stop these bigots from assuming and judging.
Common Sense June 29, 2011 at 09:15 AM
Do you realize Muslims have been in this country for centuries?
Common Sense June 29, 2011 at 09:20 AM
You mean like the terrorists who planted a deadly bomb at an MLK day parade this year? White Extremist Terrorists with Jesus on their side? Seriously, Jane. You're just trying to save face now by sinking even further into hate speech. You've crossed the line many times on this private website with rules. (sites have a right to enforce their rules, right? you came to this site as a visitor and you agreed to abide by them, so you should have your comments removed, right?)
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 09:21 AM
islam is a religion much like christianity or judaism...do some research, it isn't islam that is causing the chaos in the world right now it's IGNORANCE that is our biggest enemy. people have no idea what's really going on or what really happens. islam, christianity, and judaism all believe in one god (allah, god, jehovah) islam believes in the teachings of the prophet mohammed, just as christianity follows the teachings of the son of god, jesus, and judaism follows the teachings of david. read the quran, a lot of the things that mohammed goes through are the same trials as jesus (and buddha for that matter) it's what is called "the hero's journey" (see also luke skywalker) other than the names ,the way we worship and practice, and roles that certain people play in the religions, they are basically the same. the people you are concidering the entire muslim faith, are a select group of extremists who are angry at america because of their IGNORANCE, not the entire muslim world, and not everyone who practices islam. THEOLOGY-the philosophic study of religion. look into it sometime, educate yourself. it's actually quite interesting and will open your eyes to the truth. not what you have been lead to believe.
Common Sense June 29, 2011 at 09:22 AM
No, Jane, you freaks also sneak in Old Testament. Heck, slavery was justified for longer than necessary due to the old testament. Many use the old testament to denounce homosexuality. Grow up, Jane.
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 09:23 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_Co.#Look_policy it says nowhere in the dress code that she can't wear it
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 09:23 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_Co.#Look_policy the company dress code^^^^ it says nothing about her not being able to wear it...
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 09:25 AM
@ michelle YOU are correct, @ david, then you are not american
Common Sense June 29, 2011 at 09:37 AM
Yep, this article got linked on AOL. Most AOL articles has a clan of hateful bigots (bigots about politics, immigration, race, etc) with the theory that they have to spread their opinions to get "balance". If you want bigots, just follow AOL News.
Common Sense June 29, 2011 at 09:40 AM
No Shamin, the English point you make is one I DISAGREE with you on. If you are not a native speaker, I find it odd you are able to text speak in English. Your points are very difficult to follow and that is not good to helping people understand your side of the topic. When you text speak (especially so poorly) you're basically saying you don't even care about your point, so why should we? Typos and strained English is fine. Willful laziness to the point of utter gibberish is not.
Glen Ross June 29, 2011 at 01:42 PM
I agree that the decision had been made at the time of hiring and that should've been the end of it, but I don't think the government should be involved in forcing us to accept religious superstition and opression of women. If a company has certain dress requirements, it's not the governments business to say otherwise. Those laws need to be removed.
Susan K June 29, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Thank you for the reply, Common Sense - that explains it. I'm glad to know I'm not surrounded by raving racists as Patch is a hyper-local news site and most of the time the only people participating are local citizens.
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 03:23 PM
go get hired somewhere wearing that attire, explain to them that it is something you must do because of a religious practice, then if they fire you after refusing to take it off, then bitch and complain... like she did. you really don't get the point.
Sage Elizabeth Rogers June 29, 2011 at 03:27 PM
i don't think that you get what a melting pot is... the melting pot analogy is to explain that people from all different walks of life come together and live in harmony, not that they all conform and become mindless drones of the country they live in. that, dan, is called COMMUNISM and since this is not a COMMUNIST country, (last i checked), people are free to live, dress, eat, play, worship, learn, any way you want to. and as far as american customs, since this is a melting pot, the customs of americans are the customs of all the countries of the world since there are people from all over that make up the melting pot. obviously you don't understand the basic principals this country was founded on and need to go back to school, take a history lesson, i bet the immigrants that you apparently hate so much, know more about american history and heritage than you do.
Shamim Ahmed June 29, 2011 at 03:29 PM
@Ellen Luks like the manager was convince by the Islamist ppl too to give her da job.

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