Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has been known to push the envelope at times. If you’ve seen their half-naked male models posing in store windows in only a pair of boxer briefs, then you know what I’m talking about. Nonetheless, it still may be surprising to learn that Abercrombie’s CEO only hires all-male flight attendants to work on his private jets and requires them to wear only polo shirts, jeans, boxer briefs, and flip flops as their uniform (unless it is less than 50 degrees outside, of course).
As reported in a recent Huffington Post article, Abercrombie’s “Aircraft Standards Manual” is full of bizarre and sometimes outright ridiculous requirements. For example, it requires cabin attendants to remove all loose advertising and inserts from the 13 specific magazines that are stocked in the aircraft’s credenza, as well as the newspapers which are brought on board. The manual also contains a five-point set of instructions for seating the CEO’s two dogs.
A review of the Manual may also leave you wondering, “Can they really do that?” Well, after reading some highlights from the 47-page Manual, my initial impression is that they probably can – after all, requiring employees to constantly check all areas of the plane (including seat belts) for finger prints, and place eight (and no more) tri-folded napkins behind the bathroom vanity does not appear to violate any employment laws.
However, is there a legitimate business reason for only hiring men as flight attendants? Title VII prohibits discrimination based on gender unless there is a bona fide occupational qualification, (“BFOQ”) for the discriminatory employment policy. Essentially, the BFOQ defense allows for exceptions to Title VII if the job is truly defined by sex. For example, the restaurant chain Hooters, has been sued on numerous occasions because of its policy to only hire female wait staff, yet it somehow manages to shake the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) by arguing that its waitresses are there to provide “vicarious sexual entertainment.” Abercrombie may be skating by as well because so far, it does not appear that any females have challenged Abercrombie’s men-only hiring practices. (Considering all the requirements of the Manual, perhaps few people want to work on its CEO’s plane?)
That does not mean, however, that Abercrombie is free from all legal issues. Abercrombie has been the subject of employment lawsuits alleging discrimination on the basis of race and gender. Now, Abercrombie can add age discrimination to that list because the Aircraft Standards Manual was disclosed as part of a lawsuit brought by a former Abercrombie pilot who alleges that he was terminated because of his age and as part of a move by Abercrombie’s CEO to hire only young men as part of his flight crew.
So, what do you think about the Manual? Do you think it is evidence that Abercrombie’s CEO is “obsessed with youth” (as the lawsuit asserts)? What about the apparent hiring of just men for the aircraft staff? Do you think that could be allowed? Check out the article here and let us know.