For years, Abercrombie & Fitch's hiring practices have been under scrutiny. And now, France’s official human rights watchdog organization has set its sights on the retailer, launching an investigation.
There are two Abercrombie stores in France. As Reuters reports, the watchdog organization, Defenseur des Droits, believes the stores have been hiring people as models but then using them as sales staff.
“Though physical appearance may legitimately be a key and determining professional factor for models, that’s not so for sales staff,” the head of the watchdog, Dominique Baudis, said in a statement.
In a 2006 Salon.com interview, A&F CEO Mike Jeffries openly admitted to writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis that the company hires attractive employees:
For example, when I ask him how important sex and sexual attraction are in what he calls the “emotional experience” he creates for his customers, he says, “It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
Since then, Abercrombie has lost several discrimination lawsuits in the US and UK. Some of the violations can be found here, here and here; there was also a $40 million settlement in 2004. And don't forget: Jeffries does not want fat people wearing A&F either.
The French investigation is just the latest in what's become a long public relations nightmare for the brand, which spent years being ridiculously popular. Now, sales are down, and last year, the company announced it would close 180 US stores by 2015. This just might be the beginning of the end, time to say au revoir.