Disabled student wins discrimination case against US clothes store


A disabled law student who was removed from the shop floor of a clothes store because she wasn’t meeting a strict dress code has been awarded more than £9, 000 compensation.

An employment tribunal ruled that US clothing giant Abercrombie & Fitch had harassed Riam Dean on the grounds of her disability and failed to make a reasonable adjustment under the Disability Discrimination Act.

The incident took place while she was working at the firm’s flagship UK store in Burlington Gardens, London, in the summer of 2008.

Dean, who has a prosthetic limb from her elbow, worked at the store part-time while studying law.

She had been told by a manager that she could wear a cardigan to cover the join between her arm and her prosthetic limb, even though it did not meet the firm’s strict staff dress code.

But she quit her job after another manager sent her from the shop floor to work in the stockroom because the cardigan breached the dress code.

The tribunal said the firm’s managers did not have even “a rudimentary awareness of an employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people”, and Abercrombie & Fitch had shown “a lack of awareness of diversity issues in practice”.

An Abercrombie & Fitch spokesman said the tribunal’s findings were “based on the events of a single day – events which were not at all representative of Ms Dean’s overall employment with A&F”.

He added: “We continue to believe that these events resulted from a misunderstanding that could have been avoided by better communication on the part of both parties.”

But the disability charity RADAR said Dean had won an important victory for disabled people.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, said: “This case, as with other incidents such as Cerrie Burnell, the CBeebies presenter accused of scaring children because she displayed her missing arm, demonstrates precisely why people with physical impairments need to stand up for their right to make their own choices.

“It is up to them to decide whether to cover or to show their impairment, and they should not be penalised for making the choice they feel comfortable with.”   

17 August 2009

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