US clothing firm Abercrombie & Fitch is being taken to an employment tribunal after a sales assistant claimed that she was made to work in the stockroom because her prosthetic arm did not fit the shop’s image.
Riam Dean, a 22-year-old law student, is suing for disability discrimination and seeking up to £20,000 in damages for the treatment she received from her employers at the Saville Row store in central London.
Dean, who was born with her left forearm missing and wears a prosthetic arm, said she was granted special permission to wear a cardigan to cover the join in her arm. But she told the tribunal she was later removed from the shop floor and made to work in the stockroom because the cardigan did not adhere to the strict dress code.
She told the tribunal she felt "taunted" when her manager told her she could return to the shop floor of the firm’s flagship store if she removed the cardigan. She said: "I felt personally diminished, humiliated and could not argue a point I could never win." Abercrombie & Fitch has yet to respond to the allegations in the tribunal but yesterday a spokeswoman for the company said Dean’s portrayal of what occurred was "inaccurate".
"We regret that Miss Dean has felt it necessary to bring a claim to the employment tribunal. Abercrombie & Fitch has a strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy and is committed to providing a supportive and dignified environment for all its employees."
Commenting on the case, Chloe Pereira, an employment lawyer from Loch Associates said: “With the popularity of shows like Ugly Betty, and increased media coverage of bullying and related issues such as obesity, this case brings to the fore the realities of “lookism”.
“Abercrombie & Fitch are well known for their young, attractive and often scantily clad members of staff. Although there is no protection from discrimination specifically on the grounds of looks, this case highlights the dangers of selecting or treating staff in a certain way based on looks where this falls under the remit of discrimination legislation.”
The case continues.