Wednesday, July 8, 2015

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Fashion Law

Blissful Ignorance: Abercrombie Can’t Pretend They Didn’t Know They Were Discriminating

All fashion enthusiasts will agree that the way we dress is an important aspect of our self-expression. For many people, clothing choices go beyond a way to express their personal style and become a part of their religious, cultural, or gender identity. However, in the working world, an employer has the legitimate right to impose a dress code on his or her employees to convey a sense of professionalism or uniformity in that business. What happens when the right of an employer to enforce a dress code conflicts with an employee’s right to dress in accordance with his or her beliefs? The recent Supreme Court decision, EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch Stores, Inc., highlights the importance of preserving the rights of the individuals even when they may conflict with dress code policies.

            Title VII requires that any dress code imposed by an employer not be discriminatory towards any one group and be enforced consistently and evenhandedly. This does not necessarily mean that the dress codes may not be discriminatory in effect. For example, the Abercrombie policy in question, banning any “caps” while at work, is not outwardly discriminatory in that it targets one group over another. Rather, no employee, regardless of religious background, was permitted to wear a cap. The effect, however, was discriminatory against women who wore a headscarf for religious reasons. When a policy is not outwardly discriminatory but still has a discriminatory effect, the employer must allow accommodations and exceptions when requested by employees whose beliefs are contrary to the dress code, unless the accommodation would cause “undue hardship” on the employer. An example of an undue hardship would be a safety or health issue caused by the accommodation for which there is no other reasonable alternative. (EEOC v. Grand Central Partnership – sanitation workers with dreadlocks could not be terminated for refusing to cut their dreadlocks for religious purposes so long as they could reasonably be tied up neatly).

            In the Abercrombie case, Samantha Elauf applied for a job at one of the retail stores in Oklahoma. She impressed the assistant manager at the interview, however, was not offered a job because her headscarf conflicted with Abercrombie’s controversial “look policy.” The assistant manager did not ask about Elauf’s religious practices, rather, she assumed she wore the scarf for faith-based reasons and assumed that she would wear it every day. Abercrombie contended at trial that Elauf never requested an accommodation and the manager did not actually know whether or not her headscarf was a religious observance. Therefore – they claim – they did not discriminate by denying her the job since all they knew was that this applicant was violating their look policy. They assert that any suspicions about her religious beliefs were irrelevant without actual knowledge or a request for accommodation. The Court ruled against Abercrombie and held that you cannot deny a prospective employee a job out of fear that they might request an accommodation. Title VII only requires that the adverse employment action be at least motivated in part by religious discrimination. Even though the manager was not positive that Elauf wore a headscarf for religious purposes, she admittedly at least suspected that to be the case and did not hire her because of it. This is sufficient to conclude she was motivated by religious discrimination even without actual knowledge of Elauf’s religion.

            The Court recognized that this ruling may require employers to ask prospective employees about their religious beliefs and whether they would need an accommodation. This could potentially lead to stereotyping and uncomfortable conversations. After all, if Elauf did not wear a headscarf for religious purposes but rather as a personal fashion choice, Abercrombie would have been justified in requiring that she take it off in compliance with their policy or risk being terminated. However, the interest in preventing discrimination before the prospective employee has even had a chance to request an accommodation outweighs this potential for awkward conversations.

          Abercrombie is no stranger to discrimination law suits. In 2004, they settled a case in which they were accused of keeping minority employees in back-room, stocking positions and reserving the sales floor spots for white workers. The result was a $40 million settlement and an agreement on Abercrombie’s part to hire diversity recruiters at the corporate level. Even more similar, in 2011 the company settled a suit in which a Muslim woman was fired for refusing to remove her headscarf. Allowing headscarves was determined to be a reasonable accommodation, and “distracting from the brand” was not considered an “undue hardship” on Abercrombie. Here, Elauf’s case was a great victory in taking protections for an individual’s right to dress according to their religious beliefs in the work place one step further. The effect of this case is that employers will not be able to use “I didn’t really know” as an excuse to cover up discriminatory motives in hiring practices. It is important that the court continue to recognize how important clothing choices can be to one’s sense of self and protects that right in the work place and beyond.

Stay tuned for more on ethical fashion...

Monday, June 29, 2015

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Fashion Fix

Louboutin Brings Diversity to Shoes---

Christian Louboutin stays at the forefront of the fashion industry. This time he's doing it by expanding his Nudes line, to include a wider range of colors considered--nude.

For years, "nude" shoes, and other items for that mater, have come in shades of blush, tan, and faded pinks. Not much has been available for women of darker and more olive tones. Christian is saying, "no more". Starting in August, ladies will be able to find shades closer to their skin tone, and truly wear a " nude" shoe. In a time where diversity, acceptance, and tolerance need the right attention, this is a great move. The limited range of "nudes" clearly missed the mark for far too many years.

Ladies, will you be finding your Louboutin Nude? Show us your #NudesforAll on social media.

Hopefully other designers follow suit.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Remembers

The King Of Pop - Remembering Michael Jackson--

The wound of him being gone never gets old, but neither do his timeless hits.  Let's remember the King of Pop, Rock, and Soul today with these favorite pictures and jams.

Rest in Peace, MJ!



Remember the Time


Man in the Mirror

I Want You Back

Rock With You

Working Day and Night

I'll Be There  

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Fashion Fix

Shoes Every Woman Should Own!

Ladies, we all know how important shoes are.  They are often the ultimate statement you make with your outfit--with your entire look.  While we completely support having a plethora of options at your disposal, there are a few considered absolute musts for the arsenal.

The Black Pump
There's no way you can't have this in your closet.  Maybe the heel is low.  Maybe the heel is high!  The shoe must be there somehow.  You can wear this with almost anything, and even if you are usually dressed casually, you can go to your black pump if you need to dress up.

The Ballet Flat
This one is a spring and summer necessity, and a multipurpose shoe for every wardrobe. The ballet flat is not only necessary for many casual looks, like leggings with blazers, but also to get you around before changing into your heels.  While many of us can strut anywhere in heels, concrete and asphalt are the enemy.  Keep some ballet flats on deck to get you from place to place and preserve your coveted stilettos.

Gym Shoes/Sneakers
You may not be excited about jogging or athletics at all.  However, gym shoes are a must, because you never know what may come up--a dance class, cause walk/run, kids to run after.  Be prepared, ladies.  Have the kicks ready for whatever.

Knee-high boot
This can be a heel or even a flat, since the knee height will lengthen the leg anyway.  Having this shoe in black and brown are necessary for the fall and winter.

The Sandal
You have some flexibility here.  Of course we promote both heels and flats, but if you are committed to one or the other only--go for it.  Summer attire will usually call you away from closed-toe shoes, so be ready to swap to sandals when the weather heats up.  If you aren't proud of your toes, check out the peep-toe looks.  Don't restrict yourself to completely closed shoes.  Make summer strolling fun and fashionable!

Check your closet.  Have everything you need?

Monday, June 22, 2015

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Fashion Law

Fashion Law Gets Accredited!

Ms. Susan Scaffidi has done it again!  She continues to take our beloved niche to the next level, with the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham School of Law now offering an LL.M. in Fashion Law.  An M.S.L. for nonlawyers will be offered as well.

Offering part-time and full-time programs, this feat is a major step for the fashion law niche.  After opening the Fashion Law Institute in 2010, the notariety and reality of its need became clearer and clearer.  I even had the joy of attending the annual Symposium in  2013.  It was amazing!  Fashion trailblazer  Diane von Furstenberg will provide seed money for the program and continue as an advisor to the Institute.  She's been pivitol to its success from the start.

Congrats a zillion to Fordham and the Fashion Law Institute.  We're so excited about this next step!

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Fashion Law

The True Cost:  A Fashion Documentary Behind Manufacturing--

While many see fashion and the industry at large to be frivolous and superficial, it's actually a billion-dollar market with many very serious issues.  Garment production is one of the most serious--especially when it comes to the working conditions employees are subject to.

The fast-fashion niche, you know--the likes of Forever 21, H&M, Zara, etc.--have created their own place in the industry.  This segment has many positives, particularly for young shoppers, shoppers on a budget, and anyone needing something trendy in a hurry.  However, negatives have come along with this market, too.  They've been on the receiving end of lawsuits for infringement on high fashion/designer styles, discriminatory hiring practices, and the labor conditions of their factories.  Fast-fashion is all about filling the racks in a hurry.  Someone has to make those garments--often under harsh conditions.

Things have changed drastically over the last few decades.  In the 1960s, 95% of American attire was made right here in the states.  Now, that number is flipped to about 97% produced overseas.  

Executive Producer Livia Firth of The True Cost, a documentary digging deep into a number of these issues, noted at the NY screening "We are sold this myth that to buy a dress for under $10 is democratic--but it's democratic for who?  We discard faster and faster, and that is how the consumer becomes poorer and poorer.  2 of the 10 richest men in the world are the owners of Zara and H&M.  I think it says a lot about how they make their money." 

Her film delves into the realities of factory workers in places like Bangladesh and Columbia.  It puts a face behind the garments so many throw on and throw away.  Stepping far behind the scenes of your favorite mall stop, you'll see a story behind every thread, of people who can't afford what they make, and what they endure during production.

Check the trailer. This is a must-see. 

The True Cost is currently available on iTunesAmazon, DVD, and Blu-ray.  

For more on labor issues in fashion, click here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Celebrates

Happy Father's Day!

I have to share this post every year.  Dads often don't get enough credit for what they do, and I need to be sure mine is properly celebrated.  This gent has taught me endless lessons--still is!  I feel like the lessons here stick me on a regular basis.

What lessons do you carry with you from you Dad?  Here are mine...


1.  Be a good decision-maker.
Daddy and I the day I was sworn in as an attorney.
Many times, we think things are just happening to us, or the world is mad at us for some reason.  Daddy helped me realize, nothing is by accident.  The decisions you make in life, big and small, set the stage for what will and won't happen ahead.  When things are going well, you can look back and see the choices you made as the reason--same as when things are not going so well.

In Daddy's words, "We control our own destiny."  It's true there are many things beyond our control, but making the best decisions on the ones in your hands is essential.

2. The key to success is doing the things no one likes to do.
You don't want to hear this one as a kid, but as an adult, you realize how true it is.  Often, the difference between happy and successful people, and the unhappy strugglers is the ability to just suck it up and do what you have to for the end goal.  We all come across things we don't want to do--they take too long, they're too hard, no one else is doing them, you just don't feel like it--the list is endless.  This is the case for everyone, but the decision to do what you must no matter what is usually the difference-maker.  I take this lesson with me everyday.

3. Be good, be helpful.
Daddy still tells me "if you can help someone, help them".  He's so right, and why not?  A lot of times, it's easy to consider what's in it for you, but maybe the chance to help someone else is what's in it for you.  Do you really need more?  After all, what goes around, comes around, so there's really no need to worry.

*This is actually a bonus lesson:  Don't worry.  If you've planned and are doing what you are supposed to do, you don't have time to worry.  

4. Do not let your fears dictate your actions.
I keep this in mind so often, especially when a major decision needs to be made.  My Daddy has taught me about fear, and helped me realize, there's no need for it.  We all get scared from time to time, or frightened at the encounter of a surprise, but we cannot let fear of anything we face dictate what's necessary for us to do or achieve.  Fears are just roadblocks, and letting them stand in the way of our actions does nothing more than just hold us back.  When I think I may be facing fear, I remember it's just an illusion. 

5. Keep your word.
The importance of this one is immeasurable.  Your word is sometimes all you have as an adult, with the countless circumstances you'll encounter.  Whether it's at work or in a personal relationship, being trustworthy is what will precede and succeed everything you do.  It is easy to make promises, but it takes real effort to keep them.  I can't think of one thing my Daddy has told me which hasn't held up, and I want to be sure people can say the same about me.  To some, this seems to be quite difficult, which is hard to understand, but there is nothing like the truth.  We should all embrace it.

I hope you all enjoyed these lessons as much as I did sharing them.  I am blessed to know I have many more lessons ahead for Daddy to share with me, and am even more thankful to have the ones I do.

Love you Daddy!!
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