- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Abercrombie & Fitch Co. has agreed to pay $40 million to minority employees and job applicants to settle a class-action federal discrimination lawsuit that accused the clothing retailer of promoting whites at the expense of minorities, lawyers said yesterday.

The settlement, approved yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston, requires the company to adhere to a consent decree that calls for the implementation of new policies and programs to promote ethnic diversity and prevent discrimination in its work force.

Abercrombie & Fitch also must pay about $10 million to monitor compliance and cover attorneys’ fees, although the agreement contains no admission of wrongdoing by the company.

“We have, and always have had, no tolerance for discrimination. We decided to settle this suit because we felt that a long, drawn-out dispute would have been harmful to the company and distracting to management,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mike Jeffries said yesterday.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission joined the private plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which accused Abercrombie & Fitch of violating portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit specifically accused the company of engaging in recruiting and hiring practices that exclude minorities and adopting a virtually all-white marketing campaign.

“The retail industry and other industries need to know that businesses cannot discriminate against individuals under the auspice of a marketing strategy or a particular ‘look.’ Race and sex discrimination in employment are unlawful, and the EEOC will continue to aggressively pursue employers who choose to engage in such practices,” said Eric Dreiband, the EEOC’s general counsel.

The EEOC estimated the lawsuit would affect more than 10,000 Hispanic, Asian or black men and women.

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