Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Abercrombie & Fitch's appeal of $115,264 fine for disability discrimination thrown out

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Abercrombie & Fitch's appeal of a $115,264 fine for discriminating against a disabled teenage customer was thrown out last week because the company failed to send a document by certified mail.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced this month that it had penalized the clothing retailer after it didn't let Molly Maxson, an autistic teenager from Apple Valley, be accompanied by her sister in a fitting room at its Mall of America store in 2005. Store employees would not relent, even after Molly's sister and mother explained that, because of her disability, the 14-year-old could not be alone.

In addition to the fine, the state ordered Abercrombie to train its employees to accommodate disabled customers and to put up signs in its seven Minnesota stores about how customers can seek exceptions to the company's one-person-per-fitting-room policy.

Abercrombie appealed the fine and corrective actions, but sent the petition for the appeal to the Department of Human Rights by first-class mail, rather than by certified mail or hand-delivery.

First-class mail doesn't comply with the procedures of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, so the court dismissed the appeal Sept. 15. Ian Laurie, an attorney for Molly Maxson, said he had a communication from Abercrombie that indicated the company would no longer fight the penalties.

"I think that the family is glad that this is finally over," Laurie said. "Now we can kind of move on."

Michael Browne, legal affairs manager for the state Department of Human Rights, said he's expecting the company to move forward on the agency's orders.

"It's time to put up those signs," Browne said.