I always want to give somebody, or even a company, the benefit of the doubt. But it seems that there may be a pretty big problem here.
If you haven’t seen it, someone else has decided to sue trendy clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for disability discrimination. A beautiful young woman in London named Riam Dean claims that she was forced to work in the stockroom in the back of the store because she has a prosthetic arm. Dean was born without her left forearm and says she has not experienced this kind of discrimination before.
From a Guardian article about the case:
Dean claims that when she told A&F about her disability after getting the job, the firm agreed she could wear a white cardigan to cover the link between her prosthesis and her upper arm. But shortly afterwards, she was told she could not work on the shop floor unless she took off the cardigan as she was breaking the firm’s “look policy”. She told the tribunal that someone in the A&F head office suggested she stay in the stockroom “until the winter uniform arrives”.
The “look policy” stipulates that all employees “represent Abercrombie & Fitch with natural, classic American style consistent with the company’s brand” and “look great while exhibiting individuality”. Workers must wear a “clean, natural, classic hairstyle” and have nails which extend “no more than a quarter inch beyond the tip of the finger”.
Dean said today in her evidence: “A female A&F manager used the ‘look policy’ and the wearing of the cardigan as an excuse to hide me away in the stockroom.
If this is all true, I could kind of understand if there was a heartless manager who didn’t care about the civil rights and emotions of an otherwise capable young woman.
What surprised me the most was this, from a Wall Street Journal article:
The New Albany, Ohio, company has faced criticism in the past from some who claim it deliberately selects young, good-looking people to work in its stores. In 2004 it spent $50 million to settle a number of employment discrimination suits in the U.S.
Really? $50 million dollars? That’s a lot of cash to pay out and not reform your company policies. More than that, it shows a widespread pattern.
When I was in Vietnam a couple of months ago to document World Concern’s Humanitarian Aid activities, I met dozens of people with disabilities. They showed that they have more abilities, than disabilities, as our Vietnam country director says. These people included seamstresses, small business employees and entrepreneurs.
World Concern tackles humanitiarian aid in a sustainable way. We teach people how to work and maximize their abilities. We offer microloans at a lower rate than they could get elsewhere. We outline a path to success, and if someone has the initiative, they can probably achieve their dreams.
The best part about the outreach to the “disabled?” Their confidence. If you can offer someone the ability to see that they have value, that they were created in the image of God, it’s the best possible outcome.
The can do far more.