An Abercrombie & Fitch
Billboard in New York City
Source: Photo courtesy of FaceMePLS, http://www.ﬂickr.com/
Legal doctrine that
employees can be hired and
ﬁred at the will of the
Great strides have been made in recent decades in eliminating the smears of discrimination from many
facets of society such as voting rights, property ownership, and education. In the workplace, however,
systematic discrimination continues to take its toll on many. This chapter explores workplace
discrimination and examines the legal remedies available to those who believe they may be victims of
discrimination. After reading this chapter, you should be able to answer the following questions:
What are the various civil rights statutes that govern employment discrimination?
What legal theories govern recovery discrimination lawsuits?
How can businesses steer clear of liability for discrimination?
Figure 12.1 shows a billboard for Abercrombie & Fitch (or A&F, as it’s sometimes known), a
clothing retailer. The Columbus, Ohio–based company generates nearly $2 billion in sales
annually by selling clothes in retail locations throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. As the
billboard suggests, A&F’s marketing concept (which it calls “Casual Luxury”) is based heavily on
portraying a certain image. How would you characterize that image? If you used adjectives like
athletic, young, all-American, sexy, or attractive, you would be correctly identifying the company’s
strategy. The strategy works as it has helped the company generate hundreds of millions in proﬁts
for its shareholders.
A&F relies on a message that boils down to convincing its young consumers that by wearing
A&F clothing, they will also be young, athletic, and attractive. If consumers don’t believe that
message, they will likely abandon the brand for another in this hugely competitive segment. To maintain the
authenticity of that marketing message, A&F rigorously hires only models that ﬁt a certain image in print and Web
advertising. It extends this practice to store workers so that any time a customer interacts with A&F, that brand
image is reinforced.
Is it illegal for A&F to hire only “attractive” people to work in its stores? The answer is no, just as it’s not illegal for
magazine to hire only attractive models, or for a cosmetics company to hire only salespeople with clear skin.
doctrine, workers in the United States are free to work for whomever they want
to (or not work at all), and employers are free to hire whomever they want to, and ﬁre them at will. The vast majority
of workers in the United States are covered by the at-will doctrine.