Two ex-Abercrombie & Fitch workers can sue the retailer on behalf of thousands of employees who allegedly had to conform to its notorious look policy, thanks to a federal court ruling that officially certified the case as a class action.
Judge Jesus Bernal’s ruling granting class certification this month means there’s a lot more at stake than there would be if two individuals were suing Abercombie on their own.
While Abercrombie overhauled its “look policy” this year, it’s still facing lawsuits over its past requirements that sales associates adhere to strict dress codes. (The company has also stopped putting shirtless men in stores, as The Washington Post noted.)
This lawsuit claims Abercrombie & Fitch required as many as 62,000 employees who worked there since 2009 to purchase the brand’s clothing with their own money to conform to the policy requiring them to wear clothes of “distinctive design.”
The recent complaint filed in California federal court claims Abercrombie required employees to purchase clothing five times a year — each time the fashion season changed. The brand allegedly provided each employee with a “style booklet,” dictating what they could purchase.
Even footwear was mandated, according to the complaint. Abercrombie allegedly forced employees to wear Vans, Converse, leather flip flops, or whatever flip flops were in Abercrombie’s seasonal colours.
This, according to the complaint, lowers employees’ pay to below minimum wage.
In an email to Business Insider, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Reed Marcy, told Business Insider that Abercrombie benefited from its “look policy” in two ways:
“First, coerced employee clothing purchases were a substantial revenue generator, even at the discounted prices charged to employees. Each time a new style guide came out, Abercrombie management pushed employees to buy Abercrombie clothes.
Second, Abercrombie’s primary marketing tool that its store personnel wear exclusively Abercrombie clothes, serving as walking billboards for the latest styles and trends so that when Abercrombie’s young customers come into the stores, they see latest Abercrombie look and want to buy those clothes.”
The complaint also alleges that Abercrombie does not give workers the rest breaks required by California law. Those who worked longer shifts did not receive the necessary breaks, either, the complaint claims. Moreover, Abercrombie allegedly failed to pay employees the necessary one-hour pay required of the company should it not provide breaks.
A representative for Abercrombie declined to comment on the current litigation.
However, Abercrombie brand president Christos Angelides spoke to CNN Money this year about the brand’s decision to reform its look policy.
“We are focused on the future not the past, and there is complete alignment that these are the right changes,” he told CNN Money.
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