University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. EE-CA-0351
Docket / Court 5:11-CV-03162 -EJD ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Attorney Organization EEOC
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
On June 27, 2011, the EEOC, on behalf of a Muslim woman, filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 against Abercrombie and Fitch Stores, Inc. and Hollister Co. California LLC. The EEOC asked ... read more >
On June 27, 2011, the EEOC, on behalf of a Muslim woman, filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 against Abercrombie and Fitch Stores, Inc. and Hollister Co. California LLC. The EEOC asked the court for a permanent injunction, compensatory damages, and punitive damages, claiming 1) the defendants failed to accommodate the sincerely held religious belief and the practice of wearing a hijab (head scarf) of the Muslim woman, and 2) the defendants fired the Muslim woman because of her religion, Islam. On September 9, 2011, the Muslim woman filed a complaint as a plaintiff-intervenor, represented by Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (San Francisco Bay Area chapter), asking the court for a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and interest. The plaintiff-intervenor claimed that the defendants unlawfully discriminated against her and discharged her because of her religion, and also failed to accommodate her religion, both under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

In October 2009, the plaintiff-intervenor applied for a job at Abercrombie and Fitch ("A&F") in San Mateo, CA and was told her hijab comported with A&F's "Look Policy." She was hired as a stockroom employee but on February 9, 2010, a manager saw her on the sales floor. On February 15, 2010 she was told by human resources to remove her hijab since it violated the company's "Look Policy." When she explained she could not remove it because of her religious beliefs, she was suspended until further notice. She was told to come back to work on February 22, 2010 but was told to remove her hijab. When she refused to do so stating it was part of her religion, her employment was terminated.

The plaintiff-intervenor filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC and DFEH on March 1, 2010. The EEOC was involved in two other cases with A&F at the time for similar charges. The EEOC and A&F tried settling the case numerous times but to no avail. On June 27, 2011, the EEOC filed this suit. After the plaintiff-intervenor's complaint on September 9, 2011, the court (Judge Edward J. Davila) ordered case management conferences and the parties went through the discovery process for a couple years.

In September 3, 2013, the court (Judge Edward J. Davila) granted plaintiffs' (EEOC) motion for partial summary judgment on the failure to accommodate claim and denied defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment. The defendants did not dispute plaintiffs' prima facie case but stated that accommodating the plaintiff-intervenor would cause undue hardship, or more than a de minimus cost. The defendants did not claim economic harm specifically but said deviating from the "Look Policy" would detract from the in-store experience, negatively affect the brand, and threaten the company's success. The court (Judge Davila) found that the defendants failed to meet their burden because they provided no evidence other than opinion testimony. The defendants then tried a novel commercial speech defense arguing that its employees are like "living advertisements," but the court (Judge Davila) rejected this argument. The court (Judge Davila) also denied defendants' motion for partial summary judgment as to the injunctive relief and punitive damages claims.

On September 19, 2013, the Court approved a stipulated judgment and decree. Among other things, the Court ordered the defendants to not discriminate on the basis of religious accommodation and to reasonably grant requests for religious accommodations. The plaintiff-intervenor received $48,000 for backpay and compensatory damages, a statement of regret, and a letter of reference. The defendants will also be subject to monitoring and reporting. The decree is to be in force for three years.

Perry Miska - 03/12/2014

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Neutral/Positive Reference
Provide antidiscrimination training
Accommodation / Leave
Discharge / Constructive Discharge / Layoff
Religion discrimination
Private Party intervened in EEOC suit
Disparate Impact
Plaintiff Type
EEOC Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1981
Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.
Hollister Co. California LLC
Plaintiff Description EEOCon behalf of a Muslim employee fired for refusing to remove her hijab
Indexed Lawyer Organizations EEOC
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2013 - 2016
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Megacases, Diversity, and the Elusive Goal of Workplace Reform
Written: Mar. 01, 2008
By: Nancy Levit (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law)
Citation: 49 B.C. L. Rev. 367 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Second Generation Employment Discrimination: A Structural Approach
By: Susan Sturm (Columbia Law School)
Citation: 101 Colum. L. Rev. 458 (2001)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

5:11−cv−03162 (N.D. Cal.) 01/22/2014
EE-CA-0351-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 06/27/2011 (2011 WL 2536400)
EE-CA-0351-0001 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint in Intervention for Damages and Injunctive and Declaratory Relief for Employment Discrimination 09/09/2011
EE-CA-0351-0002 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order granting partial summary judgment 09/03/2013 (966 F.Supp.2d 949) (N.D. Cal.)
EE-CA-0351-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Judgment and Decree 09/19/2013 (N.D. Cal.)
EE-CA-0351-0004 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Davila, Edward John (N.D. Cal.)
EE-CA-0351-0004 | EE-CA-0351-9000
Lloyd, Howard R. (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
Rogers, Yvonne Gonzalez (N.D. Cal.)
Ryu, Donna Miae Court not on record
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Billoo, Zahra Aslam (California)
EE-CA-0351-0002 | EE-CA-0351-0004 | EE-CA-0351-9000
Chien, Marsha Jade (California)
EE-CA-0351-9000 | EE-CA-0351-9000 | EE-CA-0351-9000
Ho, Christopher (California)
EE-CA-0351-0002 | EE-CA-0351-0004 | EE-CA-0351-9000
Hulett, Denise M. (California)
Lee, James L. (District of Columbia)
Lopez, P. David (District of Columbia)
Martinez−Olguin, Araceli (California)
EE-CA-0351-0002 | EE-CA-0351-9000
Mitchell, Marcia L (California)
EE-CA-0351-0001 | EE-CA-0351-0004 | EE-CA-0351-9000
Peck, Jonathan T. (California)
EE-CA-0351-0001 | EE-CA-0351-9000
Reams, Gwendolyn Young (District of Columbia)
Tamayo, William Robert (California)
EE-CA-0351-0001 | EE-CA-0351-9000
Thanasombat, Sirithon (California)
Defendant's Lawyers Acevedo, Diego F. (California)
Clark, Daniel J. (Ohio)
Dexter, Douglas Evans (California)
Knueve, Mark A. (Ohio)
EE-CA-0351-0004 | EE-CA-0351-9000
Lee, Amarra Autumn (California)
Stilp, Samantha Alyson (Ohio)
Other Lawyers Abdo, Aliah A (California)

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