Abercrombie & Fitch Settles Class Action Lawsuit for $50 Million
Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch recently settled a class action discrimination lawsuit, agreeing to pay $40 million to current, former, and prospective minority and women employees, as well as consenting to implement a multifaceted strategy to diversify its workforce. In addition, the company must pay $10 million to cover attorney fees and to monitor compliance, the Associated Press reports. The company was accused of employment practices that excluded or limited the participation of minorities and women and of conducting virtually all-white marketing campaigns. In addition to the 16 named plaintiffs, Shaheena Simons, attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, estimates that 20,000 to 50,000 others will file a claim to receive compensation for the discrimination they experienced as former employees or applicants, according to the New University newspaper of University of California-Irvine newspaper. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) joined the plaintiffs in a parallel lawsuit, arguing that Abercrombie & Fitch was in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
According to the EEOC, the nationwide chain of clothing stores has agreed to hire a Vice President for Diversity, pursue “benchmarks” to ensure fair the hiring and promotion of minority and female employees, hire 25 new recruiters for the purpose of attaining a diverse staff, require diversity training for all Abercrombie & Fitch employees who have the authority to hire other staff members, include models from a wider range of ethnic groups in its catalogues and marketing materials, and create internal protocol to enable employees to lodge complaints of discrimination. However, under the terms of the settlement, the company was not required to admit any wrongdoing.
The class-action suit was a cooperative effort between several organizations, including the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund, the Mexican American Legal and Educational Defense Fund, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and the Rainbow Push Coalition.
In 2002, Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire for a line of T-shirts with offensive slogans that stereotypically depicted Asian-Americans as cartoon-like figures with slanted eyes and conical hats. After protests erupted, according to the Associated Press, the line was pulled from the store’s shelves and website.
Media Resources: Los Angeles Times 11/28/04; New University 11/29/04; Rainbow Push Coalition Press Release 11/23/04; San Francisco Chronicle 4/18/02; Associated Press 4/18/04; EEOC 11/16/04; Associated Press 11/16/04