Abercrombie & Fitch could face discrimination claims over ‘cool and good-looking’ job ad

A controversial job ad for “cool and good-looking” staff at a major high-street retailer leaves the company wide open to tribunal claims, experts have warned.

American-based clothes store Abercrombie & Fitch is due to open its first store in Aberdeen, Scotland, later this year.

But the company is at the centre of a discrimination row after posters were put up outside the store asking for “cool and good looking people [to] come and represent our brands”.

The ad comes just months after the firm was ordered to pay £9,000 to Riam Dean, 22, an employee with a prosthetic arm, after an employment tribunal ruled she was unlawfully harassed over her disability and subsequently dismissed without good reason.

Audrey Williams, employment law partner at Eversheds, told Personnel Today: “The [new] advert carries risk and opens up the organisation to legal complaints.

“‘Cool’ is a very subjective measure, but can stereotypically describe someone who’s younger. ‘Good-looking’ could become an issue if someone with facial disfigurements applied for the job and was subsequently rejected.”

Williams added: “While the advert may get candidates through the door, the firm is potentially cutting off talented staff.”

Either experienced retail staff would be put off from applying or the firm would reject talented people because of their looks, she said.

Nigel Morgan, founder of social media agency Morgan PR, said it was “ridiculous” that a major high-street brand held no regard for employment law.

“The advert smacks of being so slavishly adhered to the brand that it doesn’t take into account the legislation. There’s nothing to stop the firm having that policy to recruit, but to publish it is inviting litigation and mockery from the media.”

Morgan said the ad could have been a “cynical” attempt to get publicity. “The advert reinforces what they consider their brand stands for, but they have disregarded the possibility it would come back to bite them,” he said.

The ad could also be used against the firm by existing employees as evidence the firm intends to apply discriminatory practices during recruitment.

Jeya Thiruchelvam, employment law editor at Xpert HR, said: “Claimants already pursuing the company for discrimination could arguably point to the strategy as indicative of the company’s lack of any proper or genuine commitment to equal opportunities, (which when coupled with other things) could be instrumental in shifting the burden of proof in tribunal proceedings.”

Abercrombie & Fitch denied the discrimination claims, but refused to comment further.

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