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Lessons from Abercrombie's Weird and Discriminatory Rule Book

Stringent dress code requirements are funny and sometimes hard to believe. However, companies may want to pay attention to the king of weird dress codes – Abercrombie & Fitch. If your rules cost your business money, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your priorities.

Abercrombie & Fitch Guys

(Photo Credit: Jennnster/Flickr)

Recently, a federal judge ruled in favor of a 19-year old Muslim employee of Abercrombie & Fitch, who was fired for wearing an Islamic headscarf, or hijab. Part of her employment included agreeing to Abercrombie’s “Look Policy”, but of course you can see how a hijab would not fit in with the weird guidelines of the “Look Policy”, which includes regulation of facial hair, makeup, and jewelry, and prohibits “extreme hairstyles”.

This isn’t however, the first time Abercrombie has had problems enforcing rules that require employees to achieve the store's idea of the “all-American look”. In 2005, Abercrombie & Fitch paid a $40 million settlement to African-Americans, Asians-Americans, Latinos, and women who weren’t hired or promoted because of race or gender.  Then, in 2006, CEO Michael Jeffries announced that Abercrombie attire wasn’t meant to be worn by unattractive, overweight, or undesirable teens. It was later uncovered that Abercrombie actually refused to stock XL or XXL sized women’s clothing.

All of which may have led to a significant drop in Abercrombie sales, which as of August, had declined by 18%. It would appear that once your rules exclude people by religion, race, gender, weight, and anyone not considered “cool”, you aren’t left with very many people to conduct business with. Furthermore, workplaces are finding that more lenient dress codes and fewer rules regulating the appearances of employees, actually result in happier employees.  If employees are happy, there is a better chance that customers will also be happy.

Not only are many of Abercrombie’s discriminatory rules illegal, but they are costing the company huge chunks of money in lawsuits and declining sales – something that all businesses may want to take into consideration when setting up the rule book.

Tell Us What You Think

Can Abercrombie recover from their stringent appearance rules and discriminatory practices? What are your suggestions for doing so? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments below.

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