A San Diego man is claiming that he was fired from Abercrombie & Fitch because of his race. Former employee Abdul Jabbar Gbajiamilla wore his hair in conrows at work for days without comment, but was questioned about his hairstyle when a district manager came to the store. 10News reports that Gbajiamilla said that he was offended and “refused to change his hair because he felt it was in compliance with the corporate policy for hair that is clean, classic and natural.” Gbajiamilla’s team of lawyers filed a federal lawsuit against Abercombie & Fitch that claimed that the store’s grooming policy “forces American Americans to wear hairstyles which are intended to conceal the distinctive texture of their hair.”
Gbajiamilla’s attorney, Lisa Holder, said, “Abercrombie has a preference for a Eurocentric look, and anything that falls outside of that framework is considered extreme.”
I think that it is incredible that in a day and age where there are so many different acceptable clothing styles that would be considered appropriate for a workplace, that people are still being discriminated against because of their hairstyle. It would be one thing if Gbajiamilla looked extremely dirty or messy, and his manager asked him to comb his hair to maintain a more professional image. However, cornrows keep hair the neatest that it can be, because it is tightly braided to the head. What could be neater or cleaner than that? Why do people think a white man with fine, floppy blonde hair (just picture any guy in an Abercrombie & Fitch ad of a beach scene) looks any more kept together than a person with conrows? This latest lawsuit is particularly upsetting because Abercrombie & Fitch settled a huge lawsuit in 2005, when nine young adults of color were denied employment based on their race. The settlement required Abercrombie & Fitch to pay these applicants and former employees $50 million. You think they would’ve learned.
However, this does provide ample opportunity for those who want to really push their bosses over the edge: try out what you think an “offensive” style might be and see if you get fired. You could win $50 million. Here are some suggestions: