Diversity Case Study Analysis
In 2003, clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) was sued by current and past members of its sales force as well as by applicants who were denied jobs, all of whom claimed racial discrimination.
The plaintiffs, in a class action lawsuit that grew to include 10,000 claimants, alleged that A&F favored whites in a variety of ways in order to project an image of A&F’s “classic American” look. Plaintiffs alleged that people of color were discouraged from applying for positions visible to the public and were instead steered to stockroom jobs. The suit was eventually settled in 2005 for $40 million, providing at least some evidence of a lack of diversity in the retailer’s operations. This lack of diversity consciousness is similarly relevant to the decisions A&F made in 2002 before the lawsuit was filed. A&F opted to produce a line of T-shirts designed to poke fun at particular ethnic groups. More recently, A&F was sued by a young Muslim woman who was denied employment because she wears a headscarf because of religious beliefs. The case rests on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Links to an external site.), which makes it illegal to “fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual … because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
In June 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the job applicant, noting that A&F had violated provisions of the Civil Rights Act in failing to hire an otherwise well-qualified applicant because of her religious affiliation.
In a paper of NO MORE THAN 2,100 words (exclusive of title, abstract and reference pages), analyze the case of Abercrombie & Fitch. Begin by conducting an Internet search for news articles about the 2003 lawsuit, the offensive t-shirts, and 2015 case before the Supreme Court. Then, address the following questions:
- What patterns do you see in A&F’s treatment of individuals from non-majority backgrounds?
- What ethical issues are associated with A&F’s behavior? Explain which ethical principle or principles the company has violated and which ethical theory or theories you think makes for the best analysis of the situation.
- The 2003 lawsuit against A&F was legally well-founded (in terms of the outcome), but was the lawsuit ethically well-founded? Why or why not? How about the 2015 court case? What legal and ethical principles are involved in this more recent lawsuit involving the right to wear a religious head covering?
- What has A&F done to respond to the lawsuits and to the other challenges to its corporate practices related to treatment of minority groups? To what extent do you believe A&F’s actions have been sufficient? What evidence can you find that A&F has changed its corporate practices?
- Would diversity training based in deontology or utilitarianism or virtue ethics help to prevent such insensitivity from happening in a company such as A&F? Why or why not?
In addition to required readings and any websites from which you access information, reference at least four additional academic sources (academic journal articles) to support your analysis, evaluation and recommendations.
The following websites may be useful as you begin your research.
http://www.snopes.com/racial/business/tshirts.asp (Links to an external site.)
(Links to an external site.)http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/abercrombie-fitch-loses-headscarf-case-supreme-court (Links to an external site.)