One-armed Abercrombie & Fitch employee gets elbowed off sales floor

Worker shunted to stockroom after being told she didn't meet store's exhaustive appearance policy
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/20/2009

A British worker is rebelling against a retail store’s comprehensive appearance policy for its staff by accusing it of discriminating against her disability — wearing a prosthetic arm.

Riam Dean, 22, worked in Abercrombie & Fitch clothing store on Saville Row in London. When she started working at the store, the company gave her, as it does all employees, a guidebook covering its expectations on how employees should look at work. The guidebook covered an extensive list of items, including how employees should wear their hear and the length of their fingernails.

Dean, who was born with no left forearm, wears a prosthetic arm and store management initially permitted her to cover it with a sweater while she worked in the store serving customers. However, a few days later, Dean was told the sweater didn’t comply with the store’s “look policy” and she was moved to the stockroom until winter uniforms were to be worn.

Dean took exception and filed a claim for discrimination, arguing the arm was not cosmetic but a necessary aid for her disability. She is seeking about $45,000 Cdn in damages.

Abercrombie & Fitch, which is known for hiring attractive people for its stores, denies any harassment took place and said Dean’s version of events is not completely true. The company has spent millions to settle employment discrimination lawsuits in the United States, according to the Associated Press.

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