Just a few months after Abercrombie & Fitch stirred up one of its bigger controversies of the year for refusing to sell plus-size clothing, the retailer is in hot water again, this time for allegedly employing only thin and attractive people at its Paris flagship store on the renowned Champs-Élysées.
The company often stations staffers outside its shops and at entrances to greet and pose with shoppers. And if you think they look more like models than salespeople, well, you'd be right. The title for a salesperson on the Abercrombie & Fitch careers website is actually "model."
The Champs-Élysées store is known to have some of the best looking salespeople in Paris as employees – so good-looking, in fact, that they have been known to work in the buff (or close to it). And now, France’s human rights group, Le Defenseur Des Droits (which translates in English to Defender of Rights), is on the retailer's case.
The watchdog group started an investigation last week and plans to wrap up its look into Abercrombie & Fitch's possibly discriminatory hiring methods by the end of the year. But will the group's findings make guys with gym-chiseled abs, SoCal cargo shorts, and posh Ivy polo tees and girls with sun-kissed skin, ripped short shorts, and fitted ribbed tanks a thing of the past? Maybe not, since it won't be able to do much more than note its conclusions. Only an individual who is the subject of discrimination can file a lawsuit, not an independent supervisory group.
"While essential and decisive professional requirements can justify taking physical appearance into account when recruiting models, it is different for sales positions," said Dominique Baudis, a spokesman for Le Defenseur Des Droits, in a statement. Baudis also noted that permitting employment to only attractive individuals is discriminatory and sends the wrong message to Abercrombie & Fitch customers.
Abercrombie & Fitch, meanwhile, told Shine via email, "Our intent is to comply with the laws of every country in which we operate, and we are committed to diversity and inclusion across our workforce. Abercrombie & Fitch has not yet spoken with Le Defenseur Des Droits regarding their inquiries, so we cannot comment further at this point."
Back in May, the retailer not only made headlines thanks to that Change.org petition calling for people to boycott Abercrombie & Fitch until it offered plus-sizes to consumers, but also when a 2006 Salon interview with company CEO Mike Jeffries surfaced. The article included quotes from Jeffries like this one: "We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
With more than five months left in 2013, there's most likely more A&F drama to come ...