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Abercrombie & Fitch pays out to girl who didn't fit

LONDON - Abercrombie & Fitch has lost a wrongful dismissal case brought by a young woman with a prosthetic arm who was told she did not fit in with its "look policy".

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A central London employment tribunal yesterday ordered the US chain to pay her £7,800 for injury to her feelings, £1,077.37 for loss of earnings and £137.75 for wrongful dismissal.

The woman, Riam Dean, had sought £25,000 in compensation for disability discrimination, claiming she was "bullied" out of her job at the company's London store in Savile Row in July last year.

The tribunal heard that when she was working in the men's department a manager told her to go and work in the stockroom because she was breaking the look policy.

Other managers had previously allowed her to wear a cardigan to cover up her left arm, which is a prosthetic limb as Dean was born without a left forearm.

The look policy governs anything from the length of women's fingernails to what hairstyles and colours of nail polish are acceptable. The retailer works hard on projecting a youthful, sexy image both in its advertising and in its stores.

The tribunal ruled that Dean was "unlawfully harrassed for a reason that related to her disability" and the company "failed to comply with its duty to make reasonable adjustments" for her disability.

Dean said: "[The manager] used the look policy as an excuse to hide me away in the stockroom. My entire perception of my own self worth was shattered."

Mark Borkowski, a brand and celebrity publicist, told the Daily Telegraph: "This is probably one of the biggest gaffes by a fashion retailer -- it is a disgrace and a PR nightmare."

In the US in 2005 Abercrombie & Fitch paid out $50m to settle a legal claim for discrimination brought by several ethnic minority workers who said they had been forced to work in stockrooms or on night shifts.

It agreed to hire a special recruitment team focusing on hiring women and ethnic minority employees and give its employees diversity training.

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