Victory for shopgirl who refused to hide
American fashion chain ordered to pay compensation for moving worker with prosthetic arm off shop floor
Friday 14 August 2009
A young woman with a prosthetic arm has won her case for wrongful dismissal against clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch because she did not fit its "look policy".
Riam Dean, a law student, was forced to work in the stockroom of the US firm's London store. Miss Dean, 22, who was born with her left forearm missing, was first granted special permission to wear a cardigan to cover the join where her prosthetic limb was attached but was then told the cardigan did not adhere to the firm's dress code and was therefore told she could no longer work on the shop floor.
Miss Dean, from Greenford, Middlesex, started working at the company's flagship Savile Row store in June last year but worked only five shifts before resigning. A tribunal yesterday ruled she was wrongfully dismissed and unlawfully harassed but did not uphold her claim for disability discrimination.
The central London tribunal awarded Miss Dean £7,800 compensation for injury to her feelings, £1,077.37 for loss of earnings and £136.75 damages for her wrongful dismissal.
It concluded she was unlawfully harassed for a reason which related to her disability and said Abercrombie & Fitch failed to comply with its duty to make reasonable adjustments, and that she was wrongfully dismissed, but it said Miss Dean's claims of direct disability discrimination were "not well founded".
The panel also accepted she felt "humiliated" and experienced a "loss of confidence" following the dispute over her clothing.
The ruling stated: "The respondent's acts of unlawful disability discrimination arose not from treating the claimant differently from non-disabled associates (in rigidly enforcing the look policy), but in treating her the same in circumstances where it should have made an adjustment.
"Thus, whilst the tribunal is satisfied that the claimant's dismissal was a consequence of her unlawful harassment, for which she should be compensated, it can not be characterised as an act of direct disability discrimination."
Her mother, May, said her daughter was "very, very pleased" at the outcome, but declined to comment further. Miss Dean was employed as a member of the "impact team" which involved working both on the shop floor and in the stock room and was paid £6.50 an hour. But she said she had been removed from her sales position and made to work solely in the stockroom because the cardigan she wore contravened the store's dress code which sets rules on everything from hairstyle, length of fingernails and tattoos, which are acceptable only if "they represent the Abercrombie" look.
Miss Dean had told the tribunal that she had felt "humiliated" and "questioned her worth as a human being" during her time working at the store. She said: "I had been bullied out of my job. It was the lowest point I had ever been in my life."
Since her dismissal Miss Dean has befriended disabled professional model Sophie Morgan, and the two have launched Imperfect, a clothing range and campaigning group.
No one was available for comment at Abercrombie & Fitch last night.
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