Muslim Woman Who Refused to Remove Head Scarf at Work Deserved to Be Fired

Heather Murphy-Raines
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Modesty and religious head scarves known as hijabs are not what comes to mind when one thinks of teen fashion haven Hollister (a subsidiary of Abercrombie & Fitch). Rather, Hollister is known for its casual American beachy look -- micro shorts, tank tops, exposed midriffs, bare skin, and flip-flops.

And in fact, Hollister's corporate policy requires all its employees to adopt that look -- jeans, T-shirts, flip-flops -- while on the clock. When Hani Khan, a 20-year-old Muslim woman, was hired to work in the stockroom, the store manager said she could wear her hijab (in company colors). A district manager disagreed with that decision, and Khan was asked to remove her headscarf to comply with company policy. When she refused to do so, she was fired.

Usually, I would be right there defending Khan's right to wear and practice her religion as she chooses. However, I am flabbergasted at the inappropriate choice she made for employment in the first place. Hollister sells casual but very sexy clothing. Its employees, from sales clerks to stockers (who are occasionally seen in the front of the store), are required to represent that sexy, casual, beach look. A hijab as fashion simply does not say beachy. Khan shouldn't have been hired in the first place since her attire of choice didn't fit the company's image. Unfortunately, the store manager who hired her had either not been properly trained or simply chose to ignore the company policy.

Abercrombie states:

We are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all individuals regardless of religion, race or ethnicity .... We comply with the law regarding reasonable religious accommodation.


This Type of Scarf Does Work
I latch on to that word reasonable. Is it reasonable that a company be forced to make allowances to a policy that is directly related to its business? As a teen I worked in a local JCPenney, where I was required to wear skirts and pantyhose at all times. It was part of the job -- no matter how much I hated it. When it got to be too much, I quit. The fact is, employees represent their retailer's look. Hollister has every right to enforce a dress code, and as one commenter on the web rightly or wrongly says:

They sell an image, not a religion of suppression. There's nothing sexy about that.

The same dress code should apply to Ms. Khan. While a "misinformed" store manager may have hired her in the first place, the district manager gave her the opportunity to comply with the company's dress code.

Hollister sells sexy. Hijabs are the opposite. They are a form of extreme modesty. This is simply just not a good fit. I am not certain why a conservative, modestly dressed young woman wanted to work at a company whose image is anything BUT conservative. Honestly, it sounds fishy ...

She's suing of course -- it's the American way when you don't get your way, isn't it?

She claims it's religious discrimination, but is it really religion-based discrimination to be prohibited from wearing an article of clothing that clashes with a retailer's dress code? Is it discrimination to be asked to comply with what every other employee is asked to wear? What if a model for Playboy or waitress from Hooters pulled the same stunt? What if a Victoria's Secret model showed up for a photo shoot in a full-body burka or Amish bonnet for that matter? 

There's a point at which religious choices don't trump a company's right to advertise and sell its merchandise as it sees fit or to hire employees who best represent their style.

Some say this has nothing to do with religious discrimination, but is more about fitting into a corporate culture. Do you agree?


Images via Tristen.Pelton and Daniel Lee Photography/Flickr 

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