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Woman with prosthetic arm wins case against US retailer

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today Aug 14, 2009
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LONDON (AFP) — A woman with a prosthetic arm won her case for wrongful dismissal against US clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch Thursday 13 August, after she claimed she was harassed because of her disability.


Abercrombie & Fitch - Photo: www.abercrombie.com

Riam Dean, a 22-year-old law graduate who was born with no left forearm, said she was forced to work in the store's stock room because she did not fit the company's strict "look" policy.

She resigned following the row, and during an employment hearing in central London accused company employees of "bullying" and "debasement".

The tribunal on Thursday 13 August awarded her a total of 9,000 pounds -- 7,800 pounds compensation for injury to her feelings, 1,077 pounds for loss of earnings and 136 pounds for wrongful dismissal.

However, the tribunal did not uphold her claim for disability discrimination against the clothing giant, a favourite with teenagers and twentysomethings.

Dean says she was given permission to wear a cardigan to cover her arm when she was first hired in June 2008, before being told a few days later the garment did not comply with the firm's dress code.

She was told to work behind the scenes until the winter uniform which covered the arms arrived, she said.

Dean worked at Abercrombie & Fitch's flagship London store, where shoppers are greeted by male models stripped to the waist and browse for clothes in a dimly-lit nightclub-style atmosphere.

She told the tribunal she "wasn't the same person" and "didn't want to socialise" after leaving her job.

Abercrombie & Fitch had insisted that it operated a strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy for staff members.

The tribunal said in its ruling that it was "satisfied that the reason for the claimant's dismissal was her breach of the 'look' policy".

It added: "Whilst the tribunal is satisfied that the claimant's dismissal was a consequence of her unlawful harassment, for which she should be compensated, it cannot be characterised as an act of direct disability discrimination."

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